October 2010 - ACTIVO

The Easiest Way to Sell Digital Goods Online with a Small Budget (2/4)

Posted by | Web Development | No Comments

In my last post I discussed how to sell digital goods online with absolutely no budget. In this post, I will discuss ways to sell digital goods with a small budget. To be accurate, I define a small budget to be between $50 to $1000. Let’s start:

  1. Research Keywords for your target market. This can be easily done by a few google searches and several of free tools offered by Google, such as Google Trends, Google Keyword Tool (External), and Google Insights for Search. All three are great in understanding what people are looking for in your target market. Your goal is simply to nail down 5-10 key phrases (yes, phrases not only key words) that you will use in the next steps.
  2. Buy a domain name to match your keywords. There are many ways to combine a few keywords together, so if your key phrase is taken, try to find an available domain with a spin on it, or add a prefix/suffix to distinguish it. i recommend the .com domain extension but you can always venture out as well. The key point is to have the keywords in the domain name.
  3. Get a simple hosting environment that supports wordpress. Today hosting is relatively inexpensive, you should be spending anywhere from $3-$10 monthly for a new wordpress site.
  4. Buy a wordpress theme from themeforest.net. Anything works, just make sure that your theme suits your needs and is something that you are comfortable with for a while. This should cost no more than $50 (one time charge).
  5. Purchase and install aMember Pro – membership software. With this software you essentially make certain folders on your site to be accessible by members who pay membership.
  6. Set it all up: Point the domain to the website and install wordpress or call your host and have them set it up for you. Most hosting environments have clear and easy instructions or may have a one click button installations. Install the new theme. Start customizing the store to your liking: add content, add contact us info, add pages, menus, posts, etc. Install and configure the aMember Pro software, make sure you can successfully accept payments and allow downloads.
  7. All you need to do now is add your digital goods in the secure folders and link to them from your posts and pages.

There is quite a bit to do, but when it comes down to it, these steps are relatively easy to perform, especially these days with one click wordpress installers and hosting environments that can be ordered with wordpress pre-installed. Unless you already have chosen vendors, for simplicity sake I recommend purchasing the domain and hosting with the same company. Let’s add the total so far:

  1. Keyword research: Free
  2. Domain name: $10/year
  3. Hosted WordPress: $3/month
  4. WordPress Theme: $50
  5. aMember Pro Software: $179.95

Total cost to start: $242.95

There you have it, with this setup you will be competing with well known online brands and companies that are doing this for a while now. All these tools are there for you – you just need to go ahead and use them. In the next post I’ll discuss how to sell digital goods with a medium size budget (less than $5000).

To your online success!

Increase Online Sales by Reducing User Disappointment

Posted by | Magento | No Comments

One of the things that is very difficult to measure is user disappointment. Mainly because disappointed users leave and never come back but also because many small businesses do not perform enough testing on their shopping carts once the site is live. From building and maintaining many eCommerce websites, mainly Magento and ZenCart, I’ll share with you biggest mistakes and ways to reduce user disappointment.

1. Do Not Sell If Out Of Stock

Simple right? well, many online shopping carts do not have the means to automatically mark out of stock for products that are out of stock. Either mark your products on a regular basis manually by setting the quantity to zero or find a system to integrate with your POS. Most users that buy and get the “we don’t have your product” phone call get furious about the waste of time – and they are right. So, make sure you only make available online what you actually have in stock.

If you are interested in connecting your Magento or ZenCart with a POS, we offer an extension that does that: Runway integrating Magento and RunIt POS.

2. Allow Checkout Without Registration

Trivial yes. But still most websites out there do not offer this option. Either it is because they want to have the users register or because their system does not support such thing. In any case, go ahead and spend the extra time or money and program this feature in your website: it is key. Especially today where more and more users want to use your site and leave as fast as possible. If they come to buy again, they will eventually register – don’t worry. Luckily Magento comes with this feature right out of the box. ZenCart, at least for the old versions you still needed to install a third party plugin to allow such thing – but it is possible.

3. Check Your Checkout Process

Yes. Go to your site, use multiple fake names and email addresses and try to checkout yourself with as many variations as possible. Use different products, try the shipping estimator, use various discount coupons. You will not believe what you will find. Also, if you know you are not using a specific feature – remove it from the process. For example: if you do not require a phone number why even show the field? if all your products are offered with free shipping and no alternatives, why show a shipping estimator? less distractions will bring increased sales.

I think you understand where I’m taking this. The main point it to reduce as much as possible any user disappointments. From what I am seeing these days, selling only in stock items and allowing non registered users to checkout are the big items. When you have both in place, go ahead and improve your checkout process.

What was your most worst experience online?

5 FREE Ways to Test Your Website Latency from Around the Globe

Posted by | Website Speed | No Comments

For improved website performance both in user experience and SEO, low latency is critical. In my last post I covered Why Low Latency Matters? in this post I point out 5 FREE ways to measure latency from around the globe. True, this is easy to measure: fire-up firebug or open a command line window and ping around. But how do we know what our users from around the globe experience? Luckily there are many paid and free solutions out there that do exactly that. Here are some services which offer free latency and ping reports:

1. Alertra

Great for a single manual test. You also need to have a budget for this service. However, for a one time manual check, Alertra.com offers a global latency test for free right from their home page. No need to register or sign up for anything. Type your full URL including the http and page and receive the results in seconds.

2. SiteUptime

Great for free ongoing test. This service have a free ongoing monitoring per a single domain. The free service is only restricted to 30 or 60 check minute intervals. If you wish to check your site in smaller intervals you will need to upgrade to one of their paid services.

3. AlertSite

An enterprise solution for websites wanting to get a ton of information about the various response times and page load speeds from around the worlds. They offer a free trial on their website but are missing any sort of price sheet, so I have no idea as to what size websites they cater to.

4. Gomez

Another Enterprise solution for well funded websites. They do offer a free load time test here which they will email you back the report.

5. WebSitePulse

Seems to be more budget friendly than larger website monitoring services. Also offers free latency test per domain on manual tests.

What do you use for website performance monitoring service?

Why Low Latency Matters?

Posted by | Magento | No Comments

Low Latency are tiny delays that some of us may or may not notice but studies show that they do matter and can greatly affect online sales. Latency in the web development world represent the fraction of a second (or in some cases, several seconds) that affects page load times in the browser. As of the writing of this post, a normal page loads anywhere between 0.5 a second to 10 seconds. Google Webmaster Tools puts the threshold at 1.5 seconds, where any page that loads slower than 1.5 seconds is considered slow and needs improvement.

Here is a compilation of studies and conclusions reported by several large online companies:

  • Amazon: every 100ms in latency cost 1% in sales
  • Google: an extra 500ms in page generation (latency) dropped traffic by 20%
  • Shopzilla: 5 second speedup resulted in 25% pageview increase, 10% increase in revenue, 50% decrease in hardware, and a 120% increase in traffic from Google
  • Goldman Sachs: making record profits off of a 500ms speed advantage
  • Akamai: 30%-50% of transactions that take over 4 seconds, bail out

Resources: