All About Content

The Value of a CafePress Store ($5 or Whatever You Make of It)

Posted by Melanie Phung on Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I was taking a look at one of my company’s competitors recently and noticed they were using CafePress to sell merchandise with their logo on it. They’re a relatively small site, not one I’d expect to have a fan club, so I did a search on the company’s name to confirm a hunch and saw that the CafePress store ranked very well.

My theory is that the company is using the CafePress domain to help dominate the results for brand searches. I.e., In order to control what potential customers see when they search for your name, you want to dominate the top results and prevent any potentially negative sites from ranking. (Negative sites like that extortion scheme run by Ed Magedson — whom I like to call Ed the Maggot — that tries to pass itself off as a consumer advocacy website. But never mind, that’s a different story.)

I’ve also seen at least one individual do this, although I don’t remember who. But I do remember noticing that this person (or whoever was in charge of his “brand” management) advertised the CafePress store with Google PPC ads. Weird.

There are a number of ways to dominate the first page or two of search results on your own or your company’s name, and it appears creating a CafePress store is one such avenue.

Looking at the company’s CafePress store reminded me of two things: First, I set up a CafePress store many months ago just to see how it worked, and hadn’t checked how that was going for a while. And second, and probaby more interesting to my reader(s), there was a great series of articles in late 2005 by Search Engine Guide author Jennifer Laycock.

In the write-ups she chronicles how she sets up an online business from scratch with no start-up money whatsoever, using only the online marketing techniques she writes about on her blog. After weighing eBay and AdSense as options, she settles on CafePress as the way to go.

I’ve recommended these articles to a number of people who wanted to get started promoting their own projects online. Using only the techniques she shares freely with anyone who is interested, and starting with no special advantages, she proves that it really is possible for just about anyone to succeed in building a small income-generating business with nothing but a little elbow-grease.

As for my own CafePress store, I checked into my account and was surprised and just a little bit giddy to see that I had made five bucks even though I’d never bothered to promote the shop or any of its products. Someone bought a pack of cards. (whoohoo: $5!)

Use my affiliate link to create your own CafePress store — either to sell stuff or just to create another site that you can optimize to rank well for your name. Setup of a basic store is free.

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Category: Monetizing,search marketing

SEO Is Not Rocket Science

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Things that are true:

  1. SEO is not rocket science
  2. SEO is not brain surgery
  3. Brain surgery is not rocket science
  4. Apples are not oranges
  5. Oranges have no need for SEO, rocket science OR brain surgery
  6. SEO cannot guarantee profit
  7. Excellent, “100% White Hat SEO” is no guarantee of profit either
  8. Black Hat SEO works sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t
  9. Hats can be stylish, with the right outfit
  10. Stirring up idiotic controversy about how SEO is irrelevant compared to paid search (or vice versa) is sure to generate heated conversations, publicity that can last weeks if not more, and links to your site.



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Category: Contextual Ads,Industry Buzz,search marketing

I’ve Joined SEMPO

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 9:34 pm

For the first time in a long time, I’ve joined a professional association. A couple days ago I paid (with my company card of course) the membership fee for SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association. In the past I’ve generally eschewed professional associations because you only get out of them what you put into them, and frankly I was never that interested in putting that much into them. But I noticed that they had a job board (that only members can post to) and I’ve been thinking lately that I need to belong to some professional groups. So I joined and posted my job on their site.

Now that I’m a member, I get to display this logo on my site (wheee):

Given that I’m an in-house SEO with little interest in freelancing on the side, the logo (which isn’t even an accreditation since SEMPO isn’t a standards-based organization) doesn’t mean anything to me.

But if SEMPO membership helps me directly or indirectly in building and improving my team, it’ll be well worth the money. I really do need to spend more energy on networking and meeting people in the industry. But even though I haven’t spent too much time perusing SEMPO’s membership list, I don’t get the sense that the big A-listers are members; it’s actually a very new and small organization. Oh well.

Even though membership seems sort of pricey as far as professional groups go, maybe I’ll get some good employee leads out of it. And that’s really all I’m looking for at this point.

Updated 1/24/2007:
Actually, SEMPO just announced that it is offering a Fundamentals of Search Marketing course that sounds like a promising resource. I might have both my writers, and any future staff, sign up for this. Would be a lot more useful to start here than to send noobs straight to SES or PubCon where it can be too overwhelming.

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Category: search marketing

Social Media Contributing to Retail Sales

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, December 1, 2006 at 10:42 pm

Hitwise did a webinar today covering social media networks and their relevance to retail traffic. The research company says that sites like MySpace, Facebook and others have become jumping-off points for people to get to a retailer site; up to 5% of the upstream traffic to online businesses came from a social network. (Email, by comparison, drives traffic at nearly twice that rate.)

But to keep it in perspective: 25% of traffic to retail sites starts with a query in a search box, according to the same research company.

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Category: Data,search marketing,Social Media

Affiliates and Landing Pages

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Ran across an interesting post yesterday from a person who had attended PubCon and raved about the session where panelists talked about landing pages. Her only point of contention, she said (and I can’t find it now), was something to the effect of:

… but what these experts aren’t considering when they tell us to perform SEO is that we sometimes have no control over what’s on those landing page. I’m an affiliate for InPhonic and they have these terrible landing pages that don’t provide any information about the product. They’re nothing more than a form where you have to input a ZIP code.

Wow, those do sound like horrible landing pages.

Except it turns out that those zip code form pages aren’t landing pages. Their purpose is not to convert potential customers researching the product… their purpose is to collect ZIP code information in order to show the customer if a particular product is available in their area. (InPhonic sells cell phones with service, so product availability depends on carrier coverage.)

My advice to affiliates in this type of position — those trying to encourage buying behavior by customers who need some convincing: go do some marketing.

Since the ZIP entry box is a technical necessity before the customer gets dropped into the shopping cart, nothing more, the customer should find this great landing page (copy that the poster despairs InPhonic is not providing) on the affiliate’s site. Successful affiliates need to do more than simply place an affiliate link on their site; they should prime the customers for conversion.

In a case where the affiliate link goes directly into a shopping cart, that requires creating the landing page yourself; once the customer clicks through, it should only be a matter of logistics. If the affiliate creates compelling, targeted copy, not only does that provide obvious SEO benefit, but it makes it all the more likely the customer won’t abandon when they hit the form.

The message from the PubCon panel wasn’t simply: good landing pages are important — it was “it’s important that you create good landing pages.” So go build your own. Be creative, provide added value.

It’s All About Content!

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Category: Monetizing,search marketing