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Old 01-20-2012, 09:56 AM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default 10 Tips to Hire a Great SEO Agency

Staying on top of search engine optimization requires time and effort that many small businesses can’t afford in-house. One obvious solution is to turn to an agency. But which ones can be trusted and which will under deliver and overcharge? Before just picking the number one result in a Google search for “SEO,” make sure to investigate the agency.

I've worked on both sides of the SEO equation: at an agency and, now, as the in-house SEO manager of a publicly-traded company. From my experience, these 10 tips will help guide the SEO selection process.

1. Experience

Does the agency's personnel sound professional on the phone and act professionally in person? How many years has the business been offering SEO services, and how many years of SEO experience do the people who will work on this account have? Is the agency focused on SEO specifically or do they offer a wider range of marketing services? Do they have experience in specific industries or countries?

2. Location

Weigh the pros and cons of a local agency versus one located elsewhere. Local agencies can offer on-site consulting more easily and with less cost, but the SEO talent pool may be shallow. Agencies in other cities can make up the distance fairly easily with regular phone calls and webinar presentations of the deliverables. But on-site presentations and training will likely be more costly due to travel expenses and time out of the office.

3. Ethics of the Agency

Does the agency follow Google webmaster guidelines? Do the agency engage in link buying, competitor sabotage, keyword stuffing or other sketchy behavior?

4. Past Successes

With whom has the agency worked? Any agency that won’t reveal at least a handful of clients has something to hide. Get the list and check out those sites. Are they stuffed with keywords, over laden with links, or even selling links themselves? Will other clients recommend the agency? Ask for references. Call the references and ask about the aspects of the agency that are of most concern such as extra charges, communication, knowledge, the ability to act on the recommendations given.

5. Case Studies

It’s not professional to share specific data with prospective clients. But if the agency can’t speak at a high level about several success stories, be wary. On the other hand, also be sure to probe into results that look too good to be true, such as a 500 percent increase in traffic for a trophy keyword phrase. Remember, increasing from 1 to 6 visits is a 500 percent increase, but not one to get excited about.

6. Specifics

Which SEO strategies have performed best for sites like this one? What approach would the agency take with this site? Ask for some specific examples of SEO pitfalls on your site, but understand that the agency will be reluctant to go into much detail until a contract is signed.

7. Cost

The cost can be anywhere between $50 and $500,000 depending on the agency’s experience and the scope of work required. SEOmoz, the software and services firm, recently released a study and infographic on SEO pricing models across 600 surveyed professionals. The vast majority fall between $76 and $200 per hour, though some large SEO firms will only offer pricing by month, as opposed to hourly.

8. Expectations and Measurement

How will the agency measure success? It needs to measure success according to the client’s critical metrics for the engagement, whether that’s incremental revenue, links created, or leads generated.

9. Implementation Help

Will the agency work hands-on with the site or give recommendations, training and guidance to the in-house people that need to implement them? There’s no right answer here, it comes down to a site’s resources to execute, and how strict the need for control is.

10. Timeframe

When can the agency start? When can it finish? What will it deliver and on what timeline? Get an initial timeline as part of the agency’s proposal. It may shift as business needs do, or as roadblocks come up, but an initial timeline gives both sides something more concrete to work with.


Keep these tips in mind while scrolling through the pages and pages of agencies and consultants promising stellar results. Remember, choosing an agency should never come down to price or reputation alone. Make sure to investigate the agencies to be as certain as possible that they can deliver what the site, the company and the culture needs to make its SEO program successful.

Courtesy of Practical Ecommerce
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Old 01-30-2012, 12:35 PM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default Ten Steps to Effective Email Marketing

There’s a revolution going on in marketing today. New technologies continue to emerge. Communication channels are shifting and fragmenting. New social media channels change the rules of marketing and customer engagement on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the pressure for marketing to deliver measurable ROI has never been higher. This white paper presents ten steps focused on updated strategies and actionable steps designed to help B2B and B2C marketers deliver integrated and measurable email marketing campaigns in today’s quickly changing online landscape.

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Old 03-13-2012, 12:19 PM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default Pricing Strategies

The Right Pricing Strategy Can Provide Online Advantage to Clicks-and-Mortar Retailers

BOSTON and CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In the dot-com world where markets reward revenue growth and pricing below cost prevails, should traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers attempt to match prices online and risk creating channel conflict? Or should they concentrate on building a sustainable business model online and wait for competitors to fall apart? In the latest in a series of joint studies analyzing the online retail sector, Bain & Company and Mainspring conclude that successful online pricing strategies are those that most closely adhere to a retailer's overall brand identity, and take into consideration customer needs and competitive cost structures. Bricks-and-mortar companies have tremendous competitive advantages in bolstering their brands through establishment of online pricing strategies that support their overarching corporate identities.

"Overall, it is imperative that online businesses, like offline ones, do the research - to understand their customers' needs and competitors' cost structures relative to their own - and price for profitability," said Sharad Rastogi, manager at Bain & Company. "A pricing strategy must be well conceived. One of the many challenges online retailers face is to price in a manner that doesn't turn core channels into competitors - while at the same time being open to using different selling vehicles and offerings to reach different types of customers."

This latest Bain and Mainspring research further indicates that in evaluating pricing strategies, online retailers must first assess the competitive landscape and understand the economics driving market dynamics. Of equal importance, retailers must understand what types of customers they want to attract, and what pricing strategy accurately reflects their value proposition. Retailers must remember that pricing is only one piece of the overall customer value proposition that also encompasses fulfillment, reliability, site functionality and customer service.

"Online pricing is another way to bolster your brand, so you really need to understand what you stand for and why," said Julian Chu, director of eStrategy, Mainspring. "The message you send customers online and off should be consistent. If you have a reputation for passing on distribution savings to customers, then you need to offer discounts offline. Likewise, if you have built a high-end brand around quality and service, competing online via bargain pricing will only confuse customers and erode your brand."

Internet firms spent about $2 billion on offline advertising in 1999 and only a handful are achieving their branding and marketing goals. The research indicates that today, five percent of sites experience 75 percent of the hits. This gives street-level retailers with trusted brands a head start in cyberspace. Furthermore, according to the study, online retailers need to meet or beat the offline price, but just as in the bricks-and-mortar world, most retailers needn't have the lowest price as long as they are providing other services needed by customers.

While it's important that online and offline pricing strategies remain consistent for clicks-and-mortar retailers, this study suggests that online pricing affords additional flexibility and has some unique characteristics, including:

Price-based competition will be unsustainable for all but a few players: On the Internet, low-pricing strategies appear to be everywhere, especially in commodity products like books, music and consumer electronics. But over the long run, only the largest competitors can sustain a strategy based on having the lowest price. Many e-tailers in these markets will continue to struggle to maintain profitability. Those that cannot deliver a stronger value proposition will go out of business or be forced to merge under unfavorable terms.
Online retailers should use different pricing mechanisms to reach different customers: It is crucial to evaluate the needs of different customer segments and address their needs accordingly. Some customers want top-quality service, speed, ease of shopping and rewards - and are willing to pay a premium. But some consumers don't care about speed or service, they want a bargain. For these shoppers, online retailers might offer dynamic pricing, where prices are adjusted real time, such as in Internet auctions and demand aggregation schemes.
Introductory pricing gimmicks are no guarantee of success: Introductory reduced or "free" pricing strategies might boost traffic in the short term, but they are effective only when the e-tailer can hook customers securely enough to generate repeat business or cross-sell higher-margin goods or services. Such a strategy is less likely to succeed in an environment where consumers can switch retailers with the click of a mouse and cherry-pick free offers.
Bain & Company is one of the world's leading global management consulting firms, serving clients across six continents. With headquarters in Boston and offices in all major cities throughout the world, Bain has worked with over 1,500 major multinational and other corporations from every economic sector, in every region of the world. As a complement to its strategy consulting practice, Bain also owns and operates bainlab, an active incubator of Internet companies, which brings to bear Bain's intellectual property and execution capability in identifying and building Internet businesses. For more information, visit,

Mainspring is a strategy consulting firm that focuses exclusively on developing actionable Internet strategies primarily for Fortune 1000 companies. Mainspring works with clients to develop eStrategies that are designed to enable them to protect, evolve and transform their businesses in the new Internet economy. The Company provides three integrated service offerings: eStrategy Consulting, eStrategy Direct and the eStrategy Executive Council. Mainspring is organized into four vertical market practice areas: financial services; retail and consumer goods; technology, communications and media; and manufacturing. Mainspring is currently working with 38 Fortune 1000 companies.

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Old 03-16-2012, 08:32 AM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default A Short Summary of Tips for Improving FAQs

A Short Summary of Tips for Improving FAQs
  • Label questions with higher level category names
  • Place questions together near the top of the page
  • Tailor URLs for individual questions
  • Simplify your language even it means leaving out certain details
  • Provide options to take action from within the question modules

FAQ pages are increasingly falling to the wayside in favor of ‘Features’ pages, explanatory landing pages, and comprehensive videos. Nevertheless, users will always need a straightforward repository for all of the detailed questions they may have. Knowing how to make that experience pleasant while filling the sales funnel will be increasingly critical as users grow more discriminate of web application feature sets. Applying these three techniques to your FAQs page will transform visitor attention into qualified leads.

Some Good Reads and Resources:

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Old 03-27-2012, 08:18 AM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default 10 Steps to Getting More Done in Your Day

Every day, your to-do list seems to grow. And in this business climate of information overload and constant interruptions, it has become increasingly difficult for small business owners to get anything accomplished. Not to mention, instead of technology increasing your productivity, it often seems to weigh you down. How are you supposed be proud of what was accomplished today and not just be frustrated?

Here are 10 steps to getting more done in a single day. (After you get your cup of coffee, of course.)

1. Do not start the day by checking e-mail, voice messsages or social media feeds. This will suck you in a direction you do not want to go, and is the surest way to get your day off to a bad start.

2. Start by completing two things on your list that must get done today. Do the hard or unpleasant stuff first. Make sure whatever the tasks are, they will have a significant impact on your business and are part of the critical path to other business goals and objectives.

3. Make decisions and take action. Procrastination never pays off, so make the tough decisions first. Say "no" more often than you say "yes", and don’t even think about saying “maybe.”

4. Deal with every e-mail once. Read an e-mail and take action on it now. Don't save it for later or leave it in your inbox. File it in the appropriate subfolder if it is needed for later reference.

5. Focus on doing one thing at a time. Believe it or not, multitasking can cause brain damage. The brain actually doesn’t do multiple things at one time, but instead just switches very quickly. This does not improve your overall productivity.

6. Control distractions. Turn off the e-mail and social media notifications, beeps, ringtones and visits to your office. If you need to use a software tool that turns off your access to the Internet, install it. Limit or rotate the information you read.

7. Stay off the Internet, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter unless you have a plan. This is the fastest way to kill your productivity since you can drift on these sites forever. Know why you are using these tools and how it will help your business, and always set a time limit for this activity.

8. Do not enter a meeting without a written agenda and a stop time. And in some meetings, have everyone remain standing. Document action items and assignments, and end early if you can.

9. Delegate to others. Improving your productivity means utilizing the other people in your organization to take full responsibility for their own tasks. Unless you set up an assigned hierarchy, you will always be stuck with all the tasks.

10. Recharge. If technology would have its way, most small business owners would work 24/7. Set a time limit on work and ensure there are place in your life which are an oasis so you can recharge daily.

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Old 05-31-2012, 12:46 PM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default Websites that offer valuable tips & content for businesses

Chief Marketer
ECommerce Optimization
Internet Retailer
Practical ECommerce
Web Marketing Today
Business Know How
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Old 05-31-2012, 12:50 PM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default 10 Internet Marketing Tips for Retailers

When you opened the brick and mortar retail shop, chances are you planned for a grand opening or ribbon cutting. Marketing and advertising to get the word out about your new business was probably one of your top concerns. Marketing online is just as important for a retail store.

Don't just sit there watching cob webs gather on your website. Whether you sell products online or have a one-page website, there are many ways to generate more in-store traffic from your online presence. Increase exposure online with these Internet marketing tips for your retail store.

1. Send a Press Release
One of the fastest ways to spread word about your store, and products or services, is by sending a press release. Media outlets all thrive on press releases every day. The abundance of online news distribution services is now making it easier than ever for retailers to announce new product lines, special events and other shop news.
2. Submit Product Feeds
Retailers that sell products online should most definitely be using product feeds to reach a broader audience. A product feed is simply a file generated from the website that lists product details such as photos, descriptions, pricing and even specials. These product feeds can be submitted to shopping comparison websites, search engines and also made available to customers using feed readers.
Google Base
3. Share Your Knowledge
There are many ways a retailer can appear as an expert or voice of authority in a certain industry. One way is to host classes, seminars or workshops in-store. Another way is by signing up to teach related continuing education courses at the local college.
Internet retailers have known for years that one popular way to share knowledge and gain extra exposure is by writing content for free distribution. Article marketing, as it is known, has the ability to increase awareness of a retailer's presence, online and off.
4. Create a Newsletter
Newsletter and email marketing is key in keeping in touch with the customers you've manage to get in your store or on your website. It takes a lot of work to gain a customer. Why let them leave without offering a way to stay in contact?
5. Submit Your Site
Many new website owners submit their site to the major search engines and then sit back and wait for customers to come. While this is an important step for marketing online, website owners often overlook all the other directories available.
Look for specialized link directories and niche sites to submit your business information and website. Not only will these directories help increase your link popularity, but they can drive highly targeted traffic to your retail store.
6. Grab Local Listings
Google, Yahoo, Superpages and other directories and search engines are creating tools for local shoppers to find your business, provide maps of location, hours of operation and even coupons. Many of these listings are free with upgrade options for a fee.
7. Create Your Own Commercials
If your store has paid for a print display ad in the local newspaper, you may know how ineffective marketing without spoken word or visual imagery can be. Radio and television marketing may be too pricey for your shop's budget, but there is another option.
Video marketing online allows a retailer to extend the reach of their message to a larger audience for little investment. Unlike traditional marketing, producing a unique online ad or video to convey your message or brand your store can have an extremely high ROI.
8. Join Social Networking
Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn may or may not help you sell your products but if that's where your customers hang out, maybe you should too. The blogs on these sites can help retailers keep in touch with shoppers, make announcements or feature new merchandise and promotions.
9. Offer an Affilate Program
One very popular and effective method of Internet marketing for retailers is the affiliate program. This is the process in which a retailer pays one or more affiliates for each sale or customer gained as a direct result of the affiliate's marketing efforts. The retailer generally provides banners, buttons or product feeds for the affiliate's use.
Many retailers manage their own affiliate programs while others opt to use a third party to track sales, orders and payments to the affiliate. The amount of commission or bonus paid out is determined by the retailer and outlined an affiliate agreement.
10. Give Something Away
Shoppers love to get something for nothing! Retailers know this and have used freebies and giveaways as marketing tools for decades. Pens with the business name on them at the checkout counter and shopping bags with store logo are so commonplace in a retail store that we may not even see them as marketing items. Unfortunately, these items can actually become quite costly.
Not all giveaways must be expensive. A big advantage of marketing online is the opportunity to easily and quickly offer contests, coupon codes, product samples and even valuable content as promotional giveaways.

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Old 05-31-2012, 01:15 PM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default Tips and tricks for shipping smart

Multichannel Merchant Tip Sheet! Click on the link below to download your PDF of this issue's content. This Tip Sheet focuses on: Tips and Tricks for SHIPPING SMART


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Old 06-01-2012, 11:22 AM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default Some Great Quotes By Kevin Systrom

Some Great Quotes By Kevin Systrom

“You should not be afraid to have simple solutions to simple problems.”

“The problem with stealth startups is that you don’t get the feedback you need quickly enough.”

“Everything we do at Instagram, we start by saying ‘what’s v1 of this feature?”

“You need to fail in order to find the right solution.”

“Bringing a prototype into a pitch meeting is so much more powerful than a bunch of graphs that say you’re going to make lots of money in the future.”

“I think that above all else, [what] makes products spread is when they’re useful and they’re usable.”

“Part of being an entrepreneur is understanding how you’re going to be different.”

“Team building is one of the most important things when you get off the ground.”

“Optimize for people, don’t optimize for valuation.”

“It turns out when you make really nice stuff that people love, they will spread it to their friends because they’ll rave about it, they’ll tell people about it. That’s what I think at the end of the day has allowed us to grow quickly is the people get really excited about sharing photos and they really get excited about applying filters to them and it’s cool to show your friend you do this thing. That has caused, above all else, us to spread very quickly.”
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Old 06-05-2012, 10:01 AM
Autumn O'Bryan Autumn O'Bryan is offline
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Default 25 Awesome Free Google Tools for Marketers

25 Awesome Free Google Tools for Marketers

Whether you love Google or love to hate Google, you have to admit one thing. Google offers a lot of free tools to use with the convenience of being able to access them with one login.

Marketers in particular should take advantage of these tools to get more out of their search engine and social media marketing experience. The following are some of the top Google tools marketers should embrace from A to (almost) Z!

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