Mar 2010
Selling Online
In the early days of the Internet everything was free – well I say everything, early e-commerce was driven by the adult-entertainment industry.
Modern e-commerce allows everyone to trade and to make/save money online, but there are a few simple rules to obey.
For the most basic online transactions many small businesses use eBay. They set up a small shop and wait for the customers. It is true that eBay does generate a great deal of traffic, but it would be akin to setting up your stall in the busiest Bazaar in the middle of Istanbul, you can easily be overlooked!
So how about going it alone. This used to be expensive and complicated. I won’t say that it is a walk in the park now, but with the modern e-commerce packages, life has got easier. So how do you go about it?
If you only have one or two products, setting up the store is easy. If you sell, say over 100 products, you need a strategy. I would advise you to take things a step at a time (the old adage about how to eat an elephant… one mouthful at a time!). Pick your top two or three products per product group and then have something with which to launch. Trying to get all 100 or 1,000 products online before you launch will just delay things.
Prepare your legal policies - your terms and conditions; your privacy policy if you intend contacting your customers about the latest deals; and your returns policy. Many businesses launch without the latter, and this comes back to bite them.
So if everything is place, check your online processes. There is a rule of thumb in designing online shops called ‘two-clicks to buy’. If a customer is sent on a long journey through multiple screens before they can checkout, you are likely to lose them. ‘Two-clicks’ means that they confirm that they want the product – “Click”. They then log in or register their details and payment information and confirm – “Click”.
You may have seen Amazon’s “One-click to buy”. If you have the customer’s details and they are already logged in, this is a great way of getting them to impulse buy – but you must have your returns policy in place for these customers.
Make sure that you have the prices right – all necessary taxes, shipping, etc., because nothing annoys customers more that being told that they need to pay extra because you calculated things wrongly.
OK, so you are set up. Now back to eBay, well almost – the payment engine for eBay is PayPal, and this is available to anyone who wants to trade online, not just via eBay. It is easy to set this up as a payment gateway, and they will then take the headache out of collecting credit card details. Other payment gateways are also available – some people feel that PayPal looks to ‘amateur’ because of the eBay link, so we offer a range of options.
So, if you have your products ready, you have your legal policies prepared, and you have traffic coming to your website – you are ready to earn money in what we can only hope will be the next dot.com boom!
Good luck.
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Football's failure
Leeds, Chester, Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth... The list goes on and on. Football is dying.
The Football authorities - Football Association and Football League have consistently failed football fans. It is true that the end of the wage cap started the decline, but without this you could argue that the 1966 World Cup win would not have been possible. An internationally policed wage cap would help
all of football, but is unlikely to get passed.
In 1966 the lowly side, Accrington Stanley went bust. They were one of the founding clubs of the football industry we now know. It wasn't the first, and as we have seen, it isn't the last. Unfortunately, the authorities did nothing.
The prizes on offer are immense, whether you are talking about promotion to the next division or a spot in Europe, or the ultimate prize - a Champions League place. These prizes on offer are the reason many clubs bet their futures.
So when, in 1992, the Football Association decided that it wanted to keep more of the TV and sponsorship revenues for themselves. The premiership clubs in their greed welcomed this with open arms, although many of the clubs that have since fallen down the pyramid may regret what they did.
The FA, in taking a larger cut of the profits cut off the supply of funding to the lower leagues, including the non-league or semi-professional/amatuer leagues. This has in the last 18 years also helped cut off the development of new English footballers. The FA wanted the new Premiership to help support the efforts of the national team in wining the World Cup again. Their actions have, however, probably led to the opposite occurring.
Portsmouth are now the first top-level club to go bust. They have had numerous owners in this fateful year, despite the FA supposedly vetting club owners. But it doesn't stop there.
One of the world's most successful clubs - Manchester United was sold seven years ago to the American Glazier family who bough the club with huge amounts of debt with which he lumbered the club. Supporters now want to buy it off the family, but they are unlikely to sell their cash cow! But with the debt still in place, the club are in peril, despite success on the pitch.
Where to now? Well I think that we will see many more clubs going busy whilst the football Lords sitting in their ivory towers in Soho Square continue to ignore the problems. Grassroots football is being strangled, and top levels are producing young footballers who are over paid, uncontrollable and bankrupting their clubs.
Many of your favourite clubs will undoubtedly die before anything happens, but too little and too late. And as for the World Cup - we will have to continue to wait. When the greed leaves football, and we focus on the sport, we may stand a chance.
Pity really, seeing as we invented the game!
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SEO Best Practice
Optimising your site
Everyone is talking about Search Engine Optimisation or SEO nowadays. It as become one area in which the modern ‘Snake Oil Salemen’ operate. It is not the easiest thing to do, not because it is particularly difficult, but because it is time consuming and heavily detailed.
So how can you do this yourself? Let us start with things you can do quickly and easily. There are approx. 80 different elements that we think are included in the search engine algorithms. Unfortunately, these algorithms are trade secrets so we can only guess what is included and how they are prioritised. To complicate things, the search engines change them regularly too!
Select a keyword or keyphrase that you think your customers will use to find each particular page. A common error is to try to optimise for too many words or phrases. Ideally your domain name will contain this word or phrase, but failing that, you can use folders and document names to fulfil this.
In the coding of the page – the meta information as it is called, provides a description of the page. This description provides an advert for people searching for the keyword – if your description is good, it will attract visitors. Try to include your keyword or phrase in the description, but as part of natural language, not as a list of keywords or phrases.
You do, however, have an opportunity to list the relevant keywords or phrases within the meta information. It is said that this is no longer important in SEO, but it is good practice to use your keywords tag to list the important words and phrases – you can double check what is happening on your page this way.
The meta information is hidden within the code – only the description can be seen in search engine results. One of the most important factors is your content. If your keywords or phrases are included in your content you will score highly with the search engines. Use emphasis to highlight the keywords you want to stand out to your visitors and the search engines.
Make use of headings – again if your keyword is included, you will benefit from being ‘relevant’.
There are so many other factors that will help you increase your search engine rankings, and you can contact professionals to help you (not all are bad), but by following these techniques, you can do a lot yourself. Remember though, each page is different, and you have different customers for each page, so do not fall into the trap of copying the code of one page into all others – spread your net wider!
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