Friday, December 30, 2011

Online Store New Year's Resolutions

This weekend everyone will be thinking about and possibly writing down things that they would like to do differently in the coming year.  These New Year's Resolutions often include a fitness goal, a social goal, an education goal, or experience goals.  These same goals for the coming year in your personal life can be applied to your business' website.  Below I have outlined a few New Year's Resolutions for your online store's website for this coming year.
  • Fitness - Trim Down While Bulking Up.  This does not mean removing content from your website.  When you work out, it is best to have some fat on you in order to build muscle.  If you don't have any fat, then you have nothing to convert to muscle.  This is the same for your website.  Every website has some "fat" on it; it is just a matter or rearranging or re-purposing that fat to bulk up. Look through your website and find areas where pages or functions are not as efficient as they could be. Then take those areas and enhance them or move them to where they will be more useful.
    • Content vs. Calls-To-Action. Content is important, but you should not have all of your content above your calls-to-action.  Make sure your calls-to-action are above the fold on your website; this will likely involve rearranging your content so that it it lower on your page.
    • Images with Text. Do you have large images such as banner graphics that have text in them?  Change those images to be smaller background images, and allow the text to be plain text on top of those images.  This will cut down on your page load times, while improving the content for search engines on your pages.
    • Too Much Information. Again, this does not mean removing content.  If you throw all of your website options, products, advertisements, et al. all your customers on your home page, it can be overwhelming.  Divide your content out into sections or even multiple pages with each section or page focusing on one area.  On your home page, customers can click on the area they would like to learn more about and get that additional information.
  • Social - Let Customers Know You Appreciate Them. Customers purchase from your website because they like something about your website.  It may be that they like your products, or that they love your low prices, or even that they like your flexible and informative customer support and return options.  Whatever the reason may be, customers who purchase from you are letting you know that they like your business.  So show the love back; let your customers know that you appreciate their business.  This could be as simple as a thank you card included when you mail their order, or it could be an email.  Ask customers for feedback on both the products that they purchased, and your company as a whole.  See if there is anything that you could do to improve their experience.  Also, provide customers with a way to keep up with your website and learn about new products, specials, or changes that might interest them. Make sure that any newsletters that you send are regular and not spammy (if you say it is a monthly newsletter, don't send one every week), and that they are for the benefit of your customers.  After all, it is your customers that keep you in business :).
  • Education - Continue Learning And Sharing. This is great for you as a merchant, the customer, and your search engine ranking. Continually add content to your website or update a blog with information that deals with your company, the products you sell, and the industry you are part of.  If you sell furniture, you can include information on how to maintain your furniture, or new interior design trends.  If you sell clothing, show pictures of people wearing your clothing, give style tips on accessories, research the best materials and maintenance and share your research with your customers.  If you sell books or music, share information about your best selling authors and musicians, as well as relevant news in your industry.  Keep the content on your website current and informative. If you make your website an information resource, customers coming to your website for information might just end up purchasing, and customers who have purchased from you will come back to see updates.  You can include some of this information in your monthly newsletters, your blog or twitter posts, your facebook wall, and one relevant pages of your website.
  • Experience - Try Something New. Your website may be functioning great, so you may not even be considering trying something new, but this can be good for both improving your visibility on the web and increasing sales.  If you are not doing regular newsletters, start a sign up.  Services such as MailChimp have packages that are free to get you started. You may want to add mobile pages to your website.  If you are using the latest version of ShopSite Pro, you can add a mobile option to all of your store pages easily. Maybe you haven't been blogging or you have yet to get on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Google+.  You don't know how may more customers you can reach until you try to branch out from your norm. 
I am going to try all of these things on my website, this year.  I resolve to re-organize my pages so that the most beneficial information for my customers is the easiest to find.  I resolve to provide more ways to keep in contact with my business.  I resolve to provide regular information updates about the eCommerce industry on my website, both information that I have researched and write, and link to third party websites providing helpful eCommerce information. I resolve to send out a monthly newsletter with eCommerce tips, specials for website enhancements, and fun facts or online stores that I come across.  If you would like to sign up to receive these monthly newsletters, you can sign up at the following URL:

Good luck in the coming year, and have a happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Push to Christmas - Emergency Preparedness

Cyber Monday is over, you have a little calm before the last-minute-Christmas-shopper storm. Now is the time to do your emergency preparedness. Getting ready for those frantic shoppers needing their orders on time and those customers who ordered and expected their order by the holidays is essential for making your business' holiday season finish smoothly. One of the best ways to do this is to let customers know approximately when they will receive their order. Do this on your home page, your product pages, in the cart, and on the email receipt.
  • Home Page Delivery Notice - on your home page, or in a main area on your website, advertise when is the approximate last day to place an order in your store and safely receive it by Christmas.
  • Product Page Delivery Notice - some products ship quicker than others.  If you drop ship products, have custom products or products that ship at a different time, you will want to let customers know.  Include some text near the add to cart button letting customers know approximately when to expect each individual product if they ordered it that day.  Or, for each individual product, list the last day that product can safely be ordered to arrive by Christmas.
  • Shopping Cart Delivery Notice - this should be the most exact delivery notice because at this point you have the customer's shipping zip code.  Include on this screen the delivery date as exact as possible.  Make this notice clear so that customers can assess if their gifts will arrive when they want.
  • Thank You Delivery Notice - include the approximately delivery date in the email receipt if possible.
Another thing you may want to offer this time of year is expedited delivery. This will put some of your last minute shoppers very excited.

Good luck preparing for the final push of the hectic holiday season!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Advertise Cyber Monday Deals with Post-Purchase Share

I recently added a new enhancement feature for ShopSite merchants to add a post-purchase share to Facebook or Twitter.  This allows your customers to share what they purchased, and it is a way of advertising your website through your customers to their friends and family. I believe that this feature will be especially beneficial over the Black Friday - Cyber Monday weekend.  You can encourage your customers to share their purchases with their friends and family by including coupon codes or sale announcements in the Facebook post or Twitter tweet. Advertise your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales through post-purchase advertising.

The post-purchase share to Facebook and Twitter enhancement is regularly $50, however if you "Like" on Facebook (click here), you can receive 70% OFF this enhancement feature by using the coupon code "sharenow" at checkout.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reward Your Tired and Weary Shoppers

Everybody knows about the sales on Black Friday.  If you've participated in the craziness, you know that stores open as early as 4 or 5 in the morning, which means you are up at least by 2. However this year the sales start even earlier.  Stores such as Walmart, Target and Kohl's are opening their doors at midnight. Stores are putting more of an emphasis on the Black Friday sales. Another interesting bit of information is that NRF's Holiday Survey found that people are planning on spending more on themselves this year. So how can you use this knowledge to your advantage? Reward the weary!

The equivalent for online retailers of Black Friday is Cyber Monday, yet, by this point shoppers have already spent an exhausting weekend at local retailers hunting for deals.  By the time Cyber Monday rolls around you have some pretty exhausted and sleep deprived shoppers.  They have not been able to get all the items that they wanted at local retailers, so they are turning to the internet to solve their gift giving problems.  Yes, they are likely still looking for some glimmer of those sale prices that they saw over the weekend, but, as NRF's survey forecasts, they are also looking for a little pick-me-up for themselves. So show your tired shoppers some love by offering them free gifts or bonuses.  They can purchase the gifts for their loved ones, then get a guilt-free bonus gift for themselves.  You'll want to make this incentive worth your while, so offer deals such as "Spend over $X and get a FREE X!" This will increase your total per sale and will raise your customer's spirits over the busy shopping weekend.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Post-Purchase Advertising

I have begun seeing messages on facebook and twitter from my friends such as "I just pre-ordered the new Amazon Kindle!" and "I just purchased this new phone case.  You can save $10 on a new phone case using promo code 'fonekase'." Allowing your customers to advertise your products on their facebook and twitter accounts easily is a great way for you to get new customers, and it's free advertising. Some stores will simply form a message for the customer stating what they purchased with an image of the product and a link back to your website while other stores will offer customers and their friends incentives, such as providing a promotion code or advertising an upcoming sale in the facebook post or tweet.

If you need help setting up a "share on facebook" and "share on twitter" option on your ShopSite thank you page, you can have me set it up for you.  More information about this option can be found at the following URL:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Your Site Ready For Mobile Commerce?

Many top websites have optimized their website for mobile or have mobile pages.  So many sites have done this that smart phone users are beginning to expect that sites will have a mobile version. Pinching to enlarge and squinting at the content is no longer acceptable for many smart phone users.  So is your website ready?

ShopSite is planning to have a mobile capability built into their next release where users will be redirected to a mobile optimized version of your website.  So what do you need to do to prepare to use this upcoming feature?
  • Logo. Start by creating a mobile sized version of your logo.  Many websites that you visit will have a header/logo area that takes up no more than 60-70 pixels of the top of the mobile screen.
  • Navigation. No doubt you have many different ways for users to find what they are looking for on your website, but since space is limited on a phone, narrow your main categories down to about 4 main categories that will be listed on every page.  The first link should be a "home" link or a "categories" link so that customers can always return to your main list of store categories.  The other three links should be your top categories, or your most interesting categories such as "sale" or "new items." Decide what 4 links you would like at the top of all your mobile pages.
  • Template Tags. If you are using built in templates within ShopSite, this is not an issue for you.  However, if you are using custom templates, you will need to add the new mobile tags to your custom page and custom more information page template so that the redirect code will be included on your pages.  Below are the two required template tags for mobile.
             [-- MOBILE_JAVASCRIPT --] - goes within the <head></head> tags.
             [-- SS_MOBILE_REDIRECT --] - goes right after the <body> tag.
  • Footer. Your footer should be simple but informative.  Many merchants will include their company information links in their footer such as the "about us" page, the "shipping and returns information" page and "terms and conditions." If you have copyright information that you would like to include, you can include that in the footer as well. 
  • Emails. Often, smart phone users have one or more of their email accounts tied to their phone, so when they receive an email, they can check that email without going to their computer.  Because of this, you will want to make sure that ALL of your emails to customers are mobile optimized.
I am excited to delve more into the capabilities of mobile as there become more and more mobile users and mobile optimized websites causing mobile to evolve. If you are planning to have a mobile optimized website, make sure you keep up on mobile trends.  This technology if rapidly expanding and changing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Favorite Tips From American Express

On American Express's Open Forum blog they posted "30 Ways To Boost Sales Without Discounting." Below are my favorite of those tips.

1. Future-use coupons
Use wording such as "For every $50 you spend tonight, you get $10 off your next purchase of $50 or more." Your customers have an incentive to spend at least $50, and you'll get an additional $50 in purchases when they apply their future-use coupon.

9. Upsell
Have you trained your staff in the power of suggestion? Many restaurants do, but you might have overlooked it. Wait staff or counter staff should always have an upsell suggestion at the ready. "Would you like fries with that?" is only the beginning.

13. Shipping
Offer free shipping or faster shipping for purchases made within a certain time or over a certain dollar amount.

14. Bulk order rewards
Customers who buy in bulk get a reward of some kind, such as a free customer club membership or a free T-shirt or other promotional item.

15. Features
Highlight a particular item and put it front and center. Sales will increase just because it is "the featured item" even though it isn't discounted.

16. Customer reviews
Gather positive customer reviews and put them beside the product or service being offered. Testimonials are powerful.

30. Rewards and levels
Offer rewards, but tie them to dollar amounts or commitment levels. The greater purchase or commitment garners the greater reward.

You can view the complete list at:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Web Page Speed - How Does Your Site Rank? Pt 2

I did a post, Web Page Speed - How Does Your Site Rank? Pt 1, where I took my own website, optimized the images with image sprites, and tested how much of a difference it made in the page speed with Google. This time I would like to do the same thing with another website, a website with more images and other files such as JavaScript files, as well as add some server side optimization code that I read about in a blog post from, Google’s Need For Speed (and 3 things you can do to meet that need).The site I will be working on is  They are a relatively new website (opened earlier this year).  The site is getting a good amount of traffic, but I would like to see what a difference it will make to make these changes.  Both the immediate difference seen on the speed in Google, and the long term difference.  I will get an update on this website in a few weeks to see the progress.

Starting Out: 76/100
On the first test of the page speed, without making any changes, the site scored 76/100.  There were both medium and low priority suggestions as well as some experimental suggestions.  The first thing that I am going to do on this website is add in some additional code to the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file tells browsers a lot about your website.  You can include security/login information, set controls, specify where 404 page not found errors go, etc. I got my information from LexiConn's blog and in the .htaccess file for this website I added the following code:
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html text/plain text/xml text/css text/x-js application/x-javascript application/javascript text/javascript
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] no-gzip
BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
<FilesMatch "\.(ico|pdf|flv|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|swf|js)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=2419200, public"
<FilesMatch "\.(css)$">
 Header set Cache-Control "max-age=604800, public"

After .htaccess Change: 88/100
Adding the caching settings to the .htaccess file did a lot for this website's page speed according to Google.  One thing that you should note is that not all servers have this capability setup.  If you add the code listed above, and when you view your website you get a 500 error, talk with your hosting provider about making sure the server is setup for this type of .htaccess file setting.  Next I'll be changing the basics, no broken links or missing images, optimizing the order of CSS and JavaScript files, cleaning up HTML so that it is W3 Compliant.  

Clean Up: 89/100
For cleaning up your website, there are a few different online tools that you can use. A common tool is Google Webmaster Tools.  You can login to your Google Account, submit your website sitemap, and have Google analyze your website. In Google Webmaster Tools you will get things such as a list of duplicate titles, meta descriptions or meta keywords. You can get a list of missing or broken URLs and links, and other helpful information for cleaning up your website.To check if your website is W3 Compliant, I like to use  There are browser plug-ins that make checking this information easy, but you can just go to, type in your page URL, and see what, if any, errors come up.  After fixing those errors, re-validate. For, there were 26 errors on the home page when I first validated it.  However, after a few changes to match the DOCTYPE tag, all the errors have been fixed and it is passing W3C validation.

Image Sprites: 90/100
I only created one image sprite for 4 images, the rounded corners at the top and bottom of the page, as well as the navigation and sale background bars. The merchant could create image sprites for the logo image, the credit card image at the bottom, the phone number, and even the 2 images to the right of the banner.  I would only suggest to create image sprites for images that are on more than one page, so the two images on the right of the banner, although they could be added into an image sprite, I would not suggest it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How To Add A Tabbed Information Section On Your More Information Pages

Adding a tabbed information area on your product more information page is a request that I get fairly regularly.  Adding tabbed sections to your product more information page gives you the ability to display more information for the customer, in an organized fashion, without taking up too much room. Tabs give the customer a sense of the information that you provide right at the beginning, and make it so that the customer can skip right to the information that they want without scrolling through your product more information page to find where the information is, or if you have that information at all. Here is a screenshot of what the tabs would look like:

I have added the JavaScript, CSS, images, and instructions needed for you to add this functionality into your own custom product template.  You can read those instructions at

Friday, August 5, 2011

Web Page Speed - How Does Your Site Rank? Pt 1

It seems like lately many of my existing clients and some new clients have come to me worried about their page speed; I have had many emails referencing Google's Page Speed Online test page specifically.  Yes, it is true that one of the factors on how your site ranks in Google is page speed, but it is only one factor of well over 100 factors. Some of the basics for making your page speed faster include caching, image sprites, and compressed files.  I did a test on my own website to see how various factors affected my page speed according to Google's Page Speed Online:

Starting Out: 82/100
I am beginning with a score of 82/100. Not bad, but not great. I had no High Priority suggestions, but I did have both Medium Priority and Low Priority. I am going to begin my testing by creating some image sprites.  Image sprites are images that have many sub-images in them.  For example, the Facebook buttons such as "like" "share" "send" etc, all use a sprite so that the little icon that is displayed changes based on what the button is for.  All of those little icons, the thumbs up, the check mark, the text bubble, etc, are all part of the same image (see Facebook image sprite to the right). Before creating my image sprites, there were 9 images on my home page.

After Image Sprites: 90/100
Wow, what a difference! After creating and implementing the image sprites, I was down to 2 images. The page is loading much faster because the browser doesn't have to look for a bunch of different files, and the server doesn't have to serve up so many files. Combining CSS and JavaScript files into less files is typically what I would do next.  However, since my site does not have a lot of features (no mini cart, no scrolling images, no customer registration) that require the use of JavaScript, I don't have many external files.  I simply have one CSS file on my home page.  When I look at my results in Google, I have no Medium Priority suggestions anymore; my only suggestions are Low Priority page speed suggestions.

Minifying CSS: 90/100
Ok, so my CSS wasn't overly full and minifying it didn't do much for me as far as page speed.  Minifying CSS takes out all of the fluff.  Any spaces, line breaks, comments, and pretty much anything that isn't strictly CSS must go.  Because of this, I would only suggest doing this if you are done making changes to your CSS (I keep a back up on my computer so that it is easy to edit and re-minify if needed) because it is awfully hard to find the code you need and make changes on it if your entire CSS file consists of a single line. The minifyier that I had used was CSS min.

In part 2 of this post I will go over how to leverage caching or compressing your website by modifying your .htaccess file on the server.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Winding Down Encourages Changes On Your Site

With each new season comes a reminder to update the content on your website. The exciting news that was on your site last season is now a little outdated.  The sales that were advertised or the top products that were advertised have changed. There are new and exciting things to be letting your customers share in. Two big focus points for the ending of summer are back to school and winter.

National Collegiate Ethics Bowl
I was not a student who always looked forward to going back to school, although I often was excited to start a new school year. As a kid you look forward to seeing friends you haven't seen all summer or wondering who your new teacher is going to be, high school students are looking at the extracurricular activities they will be participating in, college students are moving back into dorms, prepping for their new semester of classes, and as always, looking for this semester/year to be better than the last.  So with your store, you should help boost the excitement of a new school year.

For clothing, makeup or jewelry companies, get your customers excited about having some new outfits and new trends to show off.  If you sell furniture, you might want to target college students and point out furniture pieces that are good for dorms or that are compact and functional.  Most sites will have some way to advertise for or against the new school year. If you sell movies or books you could point out good 'break from studying' media choices. Students always want the latest in gadgets and electronics, so those are easy to advertise.

Snowboarding 2010
This time of year also brings colder weather. Before you know it, leaves will litter yards and the mountains will be covered in snow. The highlighted products on your site should be changing from t-shirts, biking gear and staying cool, to jackets, snow toys and keeping warm. It's great to highlight those products that help people transition to the new weather, or products that are used in the new weather.  Join your customers in the excitement of the upcoming season by celebrating the characteristics of the new season.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Will Google Product Search Changes Affect You?

The quick answer, "Yes, Google's Product Search changes will affect your product feeds." I regularly suggest that merchants submit their products to be listed in Google's Product Search.  This is a great way to get your products out there so that customers can easily find them. Coming this September, Google will be enforcing more product information than what they have required in the past. You can read more about these changes on the Google Blog at  I have outlined some of the main points below.

New Required Fields
  • Availability - this will help customers find your products even when they are out of stock.
  • Google Product Category - this is in addition to the Product Type field.
  • Images - merchants often sent a product image in their feed but it was not required.  Google is now making this field required, and it is suggested that you send multiple product images.
  • Apparel Options - for products such as apparel, merchants will need to include information such as size and colors available, as well as gender and age group.

So now the question is, what should you do about it? I'm sure that many shopping cart software providers will change their Google Product Feed submission in upcoming updates or releases so that the new requirements are in place, but in the off-chance that your store does not get updated as quickly as you'd like, you can take matters into your own hands. 

In ShopSite Manager and Pro stores, merchants have the option of creating their own custom product fields.  If you name these fields correctly, they can be used for your Google Product Feed.

Start by going to Preferences > Extra Fields.  In the Extra Product Fields section, claim 2 - 3 fields for your Google Product Search fields.  Name one of those fields "availability" and another "google_product_category." If you sell apparel and need the third field, name it "size." If you do not sell apparel, you could use the third field for additional product images, naming it "additional_image_link."

After saving changes, go to Merchandising > Google Services > Google Product Search > Configure. Check the checkboxes next to your three extra product fields so that those get included when you are submitting to Google.

Next you will want to add that information for each of your products.  For the "availability" field, you will want to enter in "in stock" if the product will be shipped within 3 days, "available for order" if the product will be shipped in more than 4 days, "out of stock" if you are not accepting orders, and "preorder" if the product is currently not in stock but you are accepting orders.

For the "google_product_category" field, you will need to find the correct taxonomy for each product.  Click here for more information.

For the "size" field for apparel items, separate each with a comma and put quotes around each.  For example, if you offer your item in small, medium and large, enter either "Small","Medium","Large" or "S","M","L" in the field provided. These will be displayed to shoppers so make sure it is something they will understand.

If you are going to submit additional images, unfortunately, each image needs its own field.  With my setup (using one field) you will need to enter the full URL for one of your additional images.  If you would like more product images (up to 10 additional, so 11 images total), you will need a different product field for every additional image.

Summary of Required Fields
  • id - ShopSite sends the product item number.
  • title - typically the brand and product name.
  • description - use your shorter product description (500 - 1000 characters recommended).
  • google_product_category - must use Google's taxonomy.
  • link - URL to product more information page.
  • image_link - URL to product image.
  • condition - must be "new," "used" or "refurbished."
  • availability - must be "in stock," "available for order," "out of stock" or "preorder."
  • price - use lowest price if you are not sending the sale price.
  • brand - required if you are submitting GTIN and/or MPN.
  • gtin - for product's UPC or ISBN number.
  • mpn - required if you are submitting GTIN and/or Brand.
Required Fields For Apparel Items
  • item_group_id - required for variant items.
  • color - required.
  • material - required for items that differ by material.
  • pattern - required for items that differ by pattern.
  • size - required for variant items.
  • gender - must be "male," "female" or "unisex."
  • age_group - must be "adult" or "kids.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Downgraded ShopSite Templates

I often get requests for features that are built into newer versions of ShopSite, but are from merchants who are running an older version of ShopSite for some reason or another.  In those cases I will take a ShopSite template and downgrade it to work in a lower version.  I have done this for many merchants, and in many cases I downgrade the same template multiple times.  I have decided that since there is a small demand for this type of work, I will ofter some pre-downgraded/modified templates on my website,, that ShopSite merchants will be able to purchase at a lower price than having me do it individually for each merchant. 

The most common request that I get is for global side navigation bars. For downgraded templates I setup an include file where merchants can add their own links for the left navigation bar that will appear on all pages.  I have added the first of these downgraded templates.  It is available for version 10 stores using the 3Column template (themes using this template include 3Column, Bookend, Soft, Base Format and Square).  You can purchase this template at the following URL:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Websites Don't Work Sitting Down

In my last post I gave a tip called "Don't Let Your Site Sit." I'd like to press this point a little more.  Before I begin, I should let you know that this is something that I am still working on with my site.  One of my steps towards a more active website is this blog, posting on Facebook and tweeting.

Some website owners do a lot of ground work before building their website: gathering and writing the content for their website; hiring SEO companies to optimize their website, and employing marketers to advertise their website.  All this work and their website begins to gain visitors.  Every website owner hopes for this type of progress. 

Then, the website sits, maybe gains a little weight.  During this process, the visitors either stay the same or begin tapering off. All this is a bit confusing because of all the work that was put into the website.  The issue that is arising is that the website is getting sleepy and boring.  The content remains the same so search engines don't need to index as regularly.  Visitors don't need to check back to see new products, or hot tips or to even find out what is going on with the company because nothing new is available.

This is where my suggestion to not let your site sit comes in.  Keep your site active, make it work a little.  Slim down and trim up the excess fat and unnecessary code.  Exercise the site's content and know what makes the site do better or what makes the site run smoother.  Constantly check-up to make sure the entire site is functioning properly and that there are no broken links, missing images, or misaligned pages or elements. A happy healthy website will reflect to your customers.

25 SEO Tips You Shouldn't Overlook

I was browsing a few sites for website tips and suggestions today and came across an interesting post.  Most the time when I see lists of SEO tips, they include a lot of hear-say or guesses as far as SEO goes.  Some may be valid, such as tips that have been tested on sites they have worked with, while others may be just suggestions that in theory would work.  Whatever the case may be, these lists of SEO tips that I typically run into often have some things I have never heard of or some things that seem strange. This particular list went through and numbered 30 different SEO tips for your website, and all of the tips were ones that would be listed in SEO 101. I was surprised at the number of responses to this post.  There were many people who were really glad for this post.  I thought to myself that these are things that people who own websites should absolutely be doing and that they probably are doing.  However, I quickly realized that there are many people who may know some of these, but not think about others, and there may be some people who forget about some of these basics and need a reminder.  Whatever the case may be, here is a list of all-purpose SEO tips for your website.  Note: these tips are in no particular order.
  • Title Tags - make sure that each of your web pages has a title tag which includes some of the keywords for that particular page.  An important part of title tags is that no two pages have the exact same title.
  • Meta Keywords - include meta keywords for all your web pages, and make the keywords page-specific.  If a page does not contain a particular word (even if it is a big keyword on your website as a whole) don't include it.
  • Meta Descriptions - these should be on all pages, and again, they should be page-specific.
  • Image Alt Tags - especially now that there are search engines specifically for images, your images should have alt tags that are descriptive of both the image, and the page that the image is on.
  • Link Title Tags - links typically consist of regular href statements, but you should also include a title for search engines.  An example may look like <a href="link-url" title="Page Name">Name</a>.
  • Keyword Specific File Names - all of your pages should have page files names that are specific to that page by incorporating some of the keywords from that page.  For example, if it is a page for pants, the file name could be "pants-jeans-khakis.html."
  • Not Too Many Folders - your web page URLs should not have more than three directories (folders) in them.
  • Repeat Keywords - keywords should be in all places where search engines are looking.  You should highlight your page keywords in the title, meta keywords, alt tags, title tags, etc.
  • Content, Content, Content - lots of relevant (and original if possible) content is a long-lasting search engine go-to. The content is what's important on a page, so the content should be a focus when you are creating the page. Too often the images and banners are the focus and the content is an after-thought. 
  • Update Content Regularly - you can even include "this was last updated" in the code so that you remember.  Link to new relevant information, and have those links refer back you your website.
  • Never Use Frames - I think that about covers it...never use frames.  Any content in a frame is content that search engines don't see as part of your page.
  • Use Flash Sparingly - I prefer not to use flash at all, but I understand the aesthetic appeal of some flash.  Any information, text, links, or images in a flash file cannot be indexed by search engines.
  • Keep Design As Expected - some people want to have their website be different and unique and will have their layout different than other websites.  Web surfers are used to looking for information in the same general areas.  By putting information somewhere unexpected it requires the visitor to search for it on your page, and makes your website more work.
  • Keep Your Pages Small - keep images small, keep 'fluff' coding off, use image sprites if it helps.  The smaller your pages are (with images, CSS, JavaScript, etc) the faster they will load, and the happier your visitor is with their visit.
  • Use hyphens - rather than _ underscores - when you are setting up your keyword-focused page file names, you will want to separate your keywords with hyphens.  Search engines will often read those as spaces, whereas underscores are just taken out.  "Pants-jeans.html" will be read as "pants jeans" whereas "pants_jeans.html" will often be read as "Pantsjeans."
  • Robots.txt File - this is there to help search engine spiders. Review guidelines on setting this up so that it includes the relevant information for your website.
  • Text Instead Of Images - wherever possible, use text rather than images.  If you have a banner with text in it, have the banner be a background and put the text over it.  If you have a tabbed navigation, see if you can have your designer repeat the tab images and just have regular HTML text over each for the image. Search engines can't read the text in your images.
  • Use Headings Correctly - heading tags, such as <h1>
    </h1>should be around page specific headings. Keywords should also be included in these heading tags.  So for my pants-jeans-khaki.html page, my heading may look like <h1>Browse Our Jean Pants & Khaki Pants</h1>.  Don't get relaxed and use heading tags for things such as <h1>Similar Items:</h1> because neither "similar" nor "items" are keywords on your page, so they should not be in a heading or title area.  Use HTML or CSS to make the "Similar Items" text as large as you want, but don't use heading tags.
  • Get Inbound Links - do link sharing and referrals to get traffic coming to your website.  Not only is this good for more hits, but if many sites, specifically credible sites, are linking to you, search engines will take your site more seriously.
  • Create A Sitemap - there are two main types of sitemaps, and both should be created.  Setup a Google Sitemap that you submit to search engines including Google.  Also have a sitemap on your website.  This gives search engines a quick page with links to all your other pages so they are easy to find.
  • Do Your Own Research - check your website in many browsers.  Setup things such as Google Analytics so that you can track your website visitors.  Make sure you know what is going on with your website.  If there are trends with your visitors, make sure you know about those.  If your statistics change, make sure you are checking up so you are aware of the changes.
  • No Broken Links - there are free tools out there to check your website for broken links.  Make sure you don't have any broken links or missing images.
  • Research Your Competitors - find out what your competitors are using for keywords, what they are focusing their content on.  If they are ranking better than you, find out why that is and improve upon those areas.
  • Don't Let Your Site Sit - search engines like websites that are active.  Don't put your website up, setup the content once and think that you are done.  You should get excited about your site. Let your customers know you are excited about it, and that there is a reason for them to come back to see new information or changes.
  • Be Picky With Advice - don't try everything that you hear on every "this is how it's done" website. Pick a few ideas, implement them, and see how your site does.  Check if the tips improve or hurt your traffic.  See if they effect your Google ranking. Some advice is great, whereas other advice may hurt your web page standings.  If it is good for your customer, then it is probably good for your website.  If you are being sneaky to trick search engines into ranking you high, it may help you temporarily, but will often hurt you in the long run.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heeding My Own Advice

It has been a few days since my last post; clearly I am not heeding my own advice.  I do believe that in order to keep your customers (or clients) coming back to your website is by making your website more of a community where they want to check back in to see what is going on.  So with that said, I will let you know what I am looking at doing in the next few months.

First, I am looking at redesigning my website.  I think that it needs to have less "fluff" and more information links so that finding information is quick and easy.  

Second, I am going to begin offering pre-built templates for ShopSite.  There are other companies who do this, two being with their SproutCommerce templates, and and their page of pre-built ShopSite templates.  I have had pre-built templates on my website in the past, but since I was not as good at design as these other companies, I struggled selling against them.  This time around I am better at design and coding, and I am doing things differently.  I will be specializing my templates to utilize nearly all the ShopSite features.  I will be optimizing the templates so that they are SEO friendly and setup for the merchant to add a lot of Search Engine Optimized content/layout (such as repeating page descriptions at the bottom of the page in small print, as well as providing a list of product links in the footer specific to each page).  My new layouts will focus on being clean and well organized, putting all the elements that I discuss on this blog into use such as large brightly colored call-to-action buttons, sleek information layout, and easy navigation.

Third, I am going to continue to build my client and customer base on this blog, Facebook and Twitter by providing regular posts of information and tips for the world of ecommerce as well as provide more information on my website for Do-It-Yourself web design such as favicons, SEO basics, and more. 

I hope that you stay posted to see these new changes on my website, as well as the additional free information and online resources that I will be adding.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Clear, Easy and Quick

There are many places that you might be losing customers in your store.  Make sure that your checkout process isn't one of those things that is "scaring" customers off.  This video tutorial shows you how to make some edits to the checkout pages in your ShopSite store as well as provides some information on what makes for a good checkout process and what might be not-so-good.  Also, make sure that you have Google Analytics enabled in your store so that you can track the effect these changes make in your store. Click here to see how to setup a Cart Abandonment Funnel with Google Analytics in your ShopSite store.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hype, It's Infectious

Have you ever noticed that things that other people are excited about, you get excited about?  When a small crowd of people starts causing noise and gathering tight, all the people within range are drawn to the small crowd.  Everyone wants to see what the fuss is about.  Everyone wants to be part of the excitement.  Advertising your business should not be any different. If you are excited about your business, show your excitement   Make your customers excited about your business.  When your customers are excited about your business they will want to tell their friends. I have a few personal experiences in this area.

It was my sister-in-laws birthday, so I had ordered her some new flower pot boxes.  They are these wooden boxes that look great on the patio with her plants in them.  When the boxes came, they came with a little note about how no thumbs were injured in the building of those boxes.  I smiled when I saw that and I shared that little note with my family and friends. That tiny little note was probably an after-thought for this company to add in.  It was probably just part of their routine by now, but it was funny and unique, and made it so that I remembered that company and wanted to talk about that company with my family. 

Another experience had to deal with a merchant I was helping build a website for. She sells homeopathic oils and solutions. She got into this business 15 or so years earlier when she was at a point where she had no options.  She did her own research, came across these oils, and they worked wonders for her.  She became so passionate about the results that she saw that she was able to build a thriving business off of it.  She still helps many people and gets people interested in her business just based off of how excited she is  about the product.  

I am starting to take these examples and implement them in my own business.  I build websites for merchants.  I'm working on my skills with design and at creating graphics, and I've already grown my skills with clean coding, quick load speeds, and enhancing the sales and traffic on a website.  I've become good at this because I am interested in it.  I research new methods, new techniques, what works for competitors, etc.  I am just starting to show my excitement about this booming online industry by passing on some of my knowledge about the subject to anyone who wants to listen and to anyone who is on the same path I am on. I want others to be excited about testing new processes on their website and trying new ideas to improve their website. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Other Browser Compatibility Issues

In my last post I talked about how small things such as the type of image you are using could appear different in some browsers than in others.  Here I am going to discuss some areas that you need to play close attention to between browsers when you are coding. The two most common things that I run into are padding and borders around elements and bad code auto-correcting. I'm going to focus on Internet Explorer and FireFox when discussing these issues. Other popular browsers such as Google Chrome, Safari and Opera act closer to FireFox than Internet Explorer. 

Padding and Borders
When you add a margin to an element such as a table, a div, or a paragraph, the margin is outside of the element. Padding that is added is inside the element and borders are on the edge of the element between the padding and the margin.  The image to the right shows where each of these fall in relation to one another. The white area is the element area.  The light blue area is the padding.  The black line is the border.  The light green area is the margin.  So if you specify a width of 200px, a margin of 5 pixels, padding of 10 pixels and a 1 pixel border, in FireFox, the entire area that the element will be covering is 210 pixels; 200 pixels with the border and padding inside that 200 pixels, and 5 pixels on each side outside of the 200 pixels for the margin. In Internet Explorer, the entire area that this element is covering is 232px; in Internet Explorer the element goes to the width that you set, then all padding, borders and margins push that width out. 

To get around the issue with padding and borders in FireFox and Internet Explorer, I put DIVs with the width around everything, then on other elements, I don't specify widths, only use the padding and margin.  If you have a main DIV with the width, and have the rest of the DIVs use 100%, this will get around this issue.

Auto-Correcting Bad Code
There are always times when the code isn't exactly perfect on the page.  Often this happens when you make changes and don't quite remove all of the code that you are replacing. When you view your pages, you can spot issues where the code is not correct if your page does not load entirely in Internet Explorer. When Internet Explorer comes across code that is incorrect, in most cases the browser will simply stop the code there.  So your page will look as if it is only partially loaded.  In these cases you can view the page source and scroll down to the last thing that you can see in Internet Explorer.  Here is where you will find the code that needs correcting.  In other browsers such as FireFox, when there is code that is not opened or closed correctly, the browser will simply add or ignore the necessary tags in order to display the page correctly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trouble with Transparent PNG Images

As a website owner, you should check your own website in many browsers online, especially browsers that Google Analytics indicates that your customers are using to make sure that your website looks and works the same for all customers.  I have had merchants come to me many times when they notice in their Google Analytics that orders on some browsers are great and orders on other browsers are never completed and they want to know why.  I will look at their website and find out that their website looks completely different in another browser, or their website was not setup correctly so it does not work in a browser that interprets the code differently.

One thing that has become increasingly popular and more common are PNG images with transparencies.  There are a lot of benefits to using these images including that some elements can load faster because instead of having a background color built into your image, the background color will be part of your page and can load immediately.  Another benefit is if you have an image on top of something else, such as a gradient image around your page content or a seal image over the corner of your page, those images can be transparent. If they are PNG images they will automatically match edges and colors with what's behind them.  The issue with using PNGs is that older browsers, such as Internet Explorer 6, do not support PNGs.  Below is a screenshot in IE 8 on the left and IE 6 on the right.

You see that in IE 8 (left) the image matches the background, because the image is transparent in some parts.  In IE 6 (right) all areas of the image where there should be transparency, instead it is gray. The transparency is not supported in IE 6 and earlier.

Internet Explorer is the default browser on Windows computers, so there is a huge percentage of customers using Internet Explorer to browse the internet. I suggest to merchants that not only do they check current versions of browsers, but also past versions of browsers in case their customers have not upgraded their browsers to the latest versions.  If you are using Google Analytics you can also look at your reports to find out what versions of various browsers customers are using. Log into your Google Analytics account and go to Visitors > Browser Capabilities > Browsers, then click on each browser to see it broken up into versions.  Below is a screenshot of a report in Google Analytics for one of the websites I do regular website work for.  You can see that although version 9 of Internet Explorer is the newest version, over 60% of Internet Explorer customers are using version 8.  There are some customers using version 7 of Internet Explorer, and even some using version 6.  You may think that since it is less than 3% of the customers coming to the website are using version 6, that you don't need to code specifically for IE 6, but if you look at the number of hits, that small percentage accounts for over 100 visitors. That's over 100 people that may be coming to your website and may not want to order because of how the images in the store look.

I hope that this post encourages merchants to take a look at their own store to see if their store is cross browser compatible. Even if you hire third party companies to do your web design, you'll want to test for yourself to see that all of your customers are able to see your site the way that you have it setup.

Browsers I Check:
IE 9, 8, 7, 6, 5.5 (Windows, you can also check between XP, Windows 7 and Vista, because I have seen some differences in the past)
FireFox (Mac and Windows)
Safari (Mac and Windows)
Chrome (Mac and Windows)
Opera (Mac and Windows)
Mobile Phone Browsers

Resources For Checking:
Checking Versions Of IE:
FireFox Download:
Safari Download:
Google Chrome Download:
Opera Download:
View In A Mobile Browser:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gift Certificates to Entice Customers Back

One clothing store that I like to frequent is Express. They do a yearly or biyearly sale where once I spend $XX I get Express Dollars which I can spend a week or two later. This special is timed so that they have a new batch of clothing available at full price when I come back to spend my Express Bucks; I love coming back because I know that because of my purchase a week or so earlier, I now have $10/$20/$50 that I can spend at Express.  They've created a small sense of urgency by putting a time constraint on the Express Bucks; if I don't spend them I lose them. This same idea can be carried out in your ShopSite store.

Your best customers are your existing customers; you want to treat them well.  After a customer places an order, send them a gift certificate (ShopSite Pro) for the shipping total that they paid on their last order, or for a percentage of their last order. This nice little surprise will give them a good feeling about your website and may entice them to come back to your store for another purchase. You don't want these gift certificates to be indefinite, so you will want to make sure that you specify an expiration date on each one.  Give the customer enough time to receive their current order, but not too much time that they forget that they have the gift certificate.  With your gift certificate email you may want to also advertise some hot products, or upcoming products so the customer is more excited about shopping with you.

Now you may think, "how is this different than a coupon?" With a coupon, customers HAVE to spend money to save money.  Yes, it is tempting for potential sales, but the gift certificate method gives customers credit in your store without spending any additional money. They've already placed an order with you, so they have already spent some money, but now they have this credit that is just sitting their for them to use. Make your customers feel like they are the reason you are in business!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Utilizing Information in Google Analytics

There is a ton of information that is available to you through your Google Analytics account.  In order to use this information to better your website and improve your weaknesses you first need to understand what it all means.  There is so much to know that I can't possibly cover it all here, but I will address some of the areas I find helpful in my Google Analytics account.

Your Visitors
In your Google Analytics dashboard, click on "Visitors" on the left.  This will bring up a screen which typically displays the number of visitors on your website (you can customize this to specify exactly what information you want to see by default). The two reports under Visitors that I find very helpful are "Visitor Loyalty" and "Browser Capability." Knowing who your customers are will help you offer incentives specifically for them.  For example, under Visitor Loyalty, if you have high amounts of repeat customers, you can offer daily deals so that regular customers are rewarded.  If you do not have a high percentage of repeat visitors, you will probably want to increase that, and you can offer incentives to encourage customers to come back.  If your customers come to your website only one time, then daily deals will not be that appealing.  Instead, for customers who only come once, you will want to send them emails with coupons or deals to remind them of your website and cause them to revisit.  Another option would be to advertise upcoming sales, such as "this weekend only" or "labor day sale." The one warning on this is that it could cause current customers to wait to purchase, and you may end up losing the sale if they forget to return.  You will want to make sure that if you advertise upcoming sales, that the sales are not too far in the future, no more than a day or two.

Under Browser Capability you will want to see what type of browser your customers are using, and what browser functions may be turned off.  For example, if a large percentage of your customers are using mobile browsers (I would say that 10% or more is a large percentage for mobile browsing) you will want to make sure that your website looks good on a mobile browser, or may even be specific to mobile browsers.  If your website has too many functions such as hover over menus or hover over information blocks, mobile browsers are not going to see those. You may also consider setting up CSS specific to mobile browsers or even different pages for mobile browsers. Be aware if you use flash, JavaScript or cookies in your web design that the majority of your customers are using browsers that support those.

Traffic Sources
I think that the key here is knowing how your customers find you, and appreciating your channels. If you have affiliates which refer traffic, consider offering those affiliates a revenue share to encourage more traffic from them.  Another option would be for those traffic sources that bring you many hits but maybe not as many sales, try offering a coupon code on the affiliate website.  This will both increase the hits from that affiliate, and will cause more of those hits to become sales. You may decide that some traffic sources are not generating sales and that it may not be beneficial to invest in that source at this time.

Website Content
In the website content reports I like the "Top Pages," "Top Landing Pages" and "Top Exit Pages." Your top pages are where you will want to focus some of your efforts and make sure that those pages have your main content easily viewable on the page.  If your top pages are product category pages you'll want to make sure that best selling products are listed high or prominently on the page.  If your top pages are content pages you will want to make sure the content is relevant to your website and directs customers where you want them to go or to the best information on your website.  Top Landing Page reports are especially good if you are using affiliates or you have advertising that references those pages.  Top Exit Pages are the pages where you will want to make the most changes or improvements.  These pages are the pages where customers are leaving your website. You can study these pages to find out why customers are leaving after looking at these pages.  If they are your order.cgi pages, it may be because shipping prices are too high.  If your top exit pages are customer service pages it could be some of your store policies that are scaring customers away.  When you make changes to these pages, make sure you note the changes in Google Analytics and see if your changes improved the page status.

Google Analytics goals are great for tracking advertisements, cart abandonment and specials on your pages where you hope that a specific banner or graphic will generate a certain result such as submitting comments or placing an order.  To learn how to setup a cart abandonment goal please refer to my previous post, Cart Abandonment Funnel.

Ecommerce Tracking
If you have setup your website in Google Analytics to track ecommerce then this section will let you know such things as your top products, your website's conversion rate and average order value.  This section can help you focus to boost those areas.  For example, your top products should be highlighted or featured in your store.  You can offer specials or get reviews/testimonials for those products.  For the average order value, if orders in your store are typically at a certain amount, offer discounts to encourage just above that amount.  If all orders in your store average $75-$100, try offering free shipping for orders over $100, or 5% off for orders over $100.  This will encourage customers who are close to that threshold to add a small product to reach that amount.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cart Abandonment Funnel in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great resource for anyone setting up an online website.  Google Analytics has many tools from information on how customers are finding you, where your best traffic sources are coming from, and what your top pages are.  You can use the information that Google provides to enhance your website and really push your top areas. Another thing that you can do with Google Analytics is find out where your web weaknesses are. You can do this by finding out what your top exit pages are or tracking your cart abandonment. Customers may leave your website for many reasons, and finding out where they are leaving your website can help you pin point what's 'scaring' them away. Below are the steps for setting up a funnel in your Google Analytics account to track cart abandonment in your ShopSite store.

Start by logging into your Google Analytics account, clicking on the website you would like to setup the funnel for, and clicking on "Edit."

Next scroll down to the Goals section and click to add a new goal. Name your goal, make it active, and set its position in relation to your other website goals.  If this is your only goal you can have it be set 1 goal 1. For the goal type select "URL Destination." 

Once you select "URL Destination" the page will be updated and provide you with new fields. For the "Match Type" select "Head Match." For the "Goal URL" you will want to enter the URL to your thank you screen, everything after your root domain. For example, my website is, my thank you screen would be at something in a similar format to So I would enter "/cgi-bin/sc/thankyou.cgi" into that field.  You can enter a goal value if you want, but this is not necessary if you are using this funnel for tracking abandonment. Once you have entered your goal URL, click the link to "yes, create a funnel for this goal."

For this last section you will want at least two steps.  The first step is the shopping cart screen, and the second step is the checkout screen.  You do not enter the thank you CGI URL because that has already been set up as the completed goal URL.   Your last section should look something similar to the following:

Now you are done.  You can save this goal, and wait.  The amount of time you wait depends on the number of hits your website is getting.  When you are ready to check this goal you can log into your Google Analytics account, click on your website profile, then click on "View Report." In the left navigation bar you will have a link to view your goals. Next week I will write more on analyzing your goals.  You may want to also check out my article on streamlining your checkout process to minimize your cart abandonment.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Can Your Customers Find You?

Your website is setup, customized, and looking good.  You have a domain name that is catchy and easy to remember.  Now ask yourself, can your customers find your store?  This is not a trivial question.  I have been to websites that I really liked, but down the road, I only remember something like "the website was blueish with orange accents...what was that URL?" You want to make sure that you have a few different ways of channels that customers can go through in order to find your website. I have listed some options below.  Some are ones that you can do on your own, whereas others you will need to work with other companies and websites.

Google Product Search
Using ShopSite, you can easily push your products to be listed in Google's Product Search.  This is not like eBay or ShopZilla where you actually go to or to search the products.  Instead, Google has promoted their Product Search on many Google screens such as the Google header, part of the Google web search results, and in many Google control panels such as iGoogle.

With Google Product Search, you upload your products to Google, they are listed in the search results, and when customers click on the product, the customer is sent to your website to view details and to purchase the product. Google does not take a percentage of the order.  There is no cost to be listed in the Google Product search. This is a great way to get some additional traffic to your website. To be sure that you are getting the most out of the Google Product Search, you will want to make sure that you specify the categories that your products should be listed in.  You can find the correct category structure to add for your products at the following URL:

Blogs and Feeder Websites
With so much information easily available online, customers are getting more savvy about purchasing products.  Believe that your customers are researching about products before they purchase. This includes reading blogs, information websites and forums on what the best product is, how to take full advantage of a particular product, and to find additional features, add-on products, or unique accessories for what they are interested.  So, to help your customers you should include lots of product information on your website, as well as have a blog or feeder website where all you do is post information about your products.  For example, if you sell jewelry, you may have a website about hot new jewelry trends, jewelry material and maintenance, or DIY jewelry projects. If you sell camping gear, you may have a blog or website about important features to look for when you are buying camping gear, great camping locals and how-to's, and camping blunders. One example of this is and their blog Think of these blogs and feeder sites as customer service sites.  If you walk into a store and no one helps you, or the staff can't answer your questions, you are less likely to purchase from that store.  However, if you go into a store where you feel like they are working for you and treating you like a preferred customer, you are more likely to purchase there, and come back, regardless of product price. On your website you can link to your blog or feeder site, and on your blog you can link back to your website.  If you choose to go with a feeder site, you will need to purchase a new domain, and make the domain separate from your website, and focused on getting to customers who are interested.  So instead of, you may want something akin to With blogs, there are many free blog services out there such as blogger (what I'm using) or WordPress, which can be installed on a domain by your host.

Link Sharing
Share your link with similar interest websites.  If you link to related websites and they link back, you can share customers.  With this you will want to make sure that the websites don't directly compete with you (sell the same products) but sell similar products or have information that your customers may be interested in.  For example, links to their other websites,,, etc. Another example is  ShopSite has an Additional Services page where they link to other companies that merchants may be interested in such as live chat services, email campaign services, SEO services, etc. 

Post On Forums
I mentioned how customers are becoming more savvy about researching products before purchasing, so make sure that your store name appears where customers are doing their research.  One example of this is with parts stores such as motorcycle parts of car parts.  There are tons of forums talking about enhancements, modifications or tweaks that people can make to their motorcycle or car.  On these forums people will also advertise selling products or list places to get deals on products.  You don't necessarily have to advertise your store in order to get traffic, but again, just provide customer support. I have see this in my own experience on motorcycle forums, and on the user forums.  There are designers and hosting providers who will regularly respond to posts by merchants that may not be their clients.  The merchants gain more confidence in these designers and hosting companies and will often contract with these designers and hosting companies directly to do work or to host their website.  People want to know they will be taken care of if they purchase/hire you, so by posting on forums you are giving customers the assurance that you know your stuff, are friendly, and will be beneficial to work with or purchase from. 
Get To Know Your Channels
As you begin setting up all these various channels, make sure that you have some type of tracking enabled on your website.  Many merchants use Google Analytics because it is free and easy to setup on your website.  This will give you an idea of what channels are providing you with the most traffic.  You can then focus or expand those channels to take better advantage of the customers that are coming to your website.