What Has Been Done?
The first portion of the testing revolved around setting up the external websites to host up to 2 etsy vendors per site. Designing how theses sites should look and what kind of content should be created came with some challenges.
Setting Up The Websites
First, we tackled the look and feel of the sites. We chose to go with WordPress as the basis of the site because it is relatively easy to work with and has a lot of options for expansion. We found a few different themes to try out. It took a little bit of time, but we finally settled on a theme that offers elegance and simplicity. We want the sites to have a nice clean and cheery look and feel. Too much clutter can turn off visitors. An appealing look and easy of use will help to more easily guide visitors to the back-end shops.
After settling on a theme, we tackled the underlying software that ultimately runs the websites. There are a few key utilities that we will be using to help pull in traffic and also automate the posting of new items from the vendor shops.
Outside of the look and feel, the content of the site is designed to funnel the incoming traffic to the vendor shops. This occurs in three main ways.
1) The home page gives visitors only a few options. At the top there are a small number of menu items to choose from. At the bottom, there are featured images which link directly to the vendor shops; split evenly among the hosted vendors. So, from the home page, a visitor can choose to leave the site, choose a menu item, or choose one of the featured images.
3) From any page other than the home page, on the right side of the screen is 4 etsy mini widgets. 2 at the top for the featured items from each shop and 2 beneath that for several of the latest items listed for each shop.
Basic Design Goal
In more basic terms, the sites are designed so that all paths lead to the etsy shops being hosted on the site. So unless a visitor leaves the website, they will eventually end up at a shop.
The last and on-going portion of the website is the content. This part was a little tricky. Content pages are used to help draw in more traffic. The trick is that these pages need to be relative to the shop items without being competitive. After some research, we found a decent amount of content that will be added more and more over time to ideally will mesh nicely with the shop items hosted on the site.
With the majority of the site being completed, we then moved onto off-site SEO tactics to help promote the sites in order to tap into more organic web traffic as well as other streams of traffic which do not rely on search engine rankings.
For this we have created a couple of key video accounts with youtube which we will be promoting videos with. Each account is related to a specific and broad niche of etsy shop. So, right now, there are two; a vintage video account and a handmade video account.
Similarly, we have created social media and web 2.0 accounts using twitter, ping.fm, blogger, tumblr, wordpress, and about half a dozen more or so. We haven’t built the facebook fan pages yet, but this will be coming later down the road.
All of this is used to generate links and traffic to the sites. It is part of the network being used to raise awareness and funnel traffic inwards towards the shops.
The Funneling Effect
So far, this network is being fed with updated information about the posts being created on each of the sites. To understand why all of this is important, the following is a description of what happens when a shop owner lists an item:
When a shop owner lists an item in their shop, it gets pulled into the website that is hosting their shop and posted. That post gets shared across the network of social media and web 2.0 sites. By creating this syndication network, it greatly increases the exposure of each listing.
With the syndication network in place, we have moved onto social bookmarking. We have a very special social bookmarking account which we are using to promote the websites. We submit the site link and some keyword optimized details about the link. This information is then book marked by real people using real social bookmarking accounts.
Why is this valuable? It creates a large number of backlinks which will help to increase the search engine ranking of the websites. At the same time, since these are real social bookmarking accounts, they pull in some traffic from people who browse for information on these various social sites. This is far more effective than other tactics used by marketers which include book marking their own sites or using fake social bookmarking accounts to book mark sites with.
What Comes Next?
There will be on-going work to add to the existing content on the sites and grow the video and social media content. There will also be continual work on social media promotion, video promotion, press releases, and other forms of backlinking.
Once the amount of content grows to an appropriate level, then related articles can be submitted to article directories; furthering the growth of the backlinks for the sites. There is also plans for document creation and submission to document directories.
The ultimate goal is to generate a steady flow of traffic into the websites and out to the vendor shops. Once we can see that a steady flow of a at least a few hundred visitors per day are coming into the site, this will indicate that the end of the test is near. We want to be able to gauge the amount of work that needs to be done in order to create these sites and get them running to the point of flowing traffic. Finally, we will want to get an idea of how much incoming traffic is required to result in a steady flow of outgoing traffic to the vendor sites. We would like to see at least a monthly outward flow of traffic of about 150 to 300 visitor per month to the vendor shops before take our final measurements of the work it takes to get to that point.
Once we can reach a point of a steady flow of traffic to the hosted vendor shops, it will be just a matter of maintaining and steadily growing the website traffic.
We are just now seeing the first trickling of traffic into the test websites, so useful calculation at this point isn’t possible. A lot of the hard work has been done, so we expect to start seeing a rise in traffic soon.
When Will Testing End?
Once we are able to accurately determine the amount of work it takes to generate a decent amount of traffic to vendor shops, it will give us a better idea of the amount of work we are able to perform at a particular cost.
Remember, our goal is to create a low cost opportunity for shop owners to increase their traffic and exposure. Ideally, the cost would be justified by an increase in sales due to the higher volume of traffic.
As soon as we can identify this happy medium, the test will be complete and we can open the doors.
- The test sites are built.
- The efforts for generating traffic have begun.
- We are starting to see some traffic coming in.
- We are continuing to grow the test sites and backlinks for higher search engine rankings.
- In the coming weeks we expect to see a rise in traffic and will be working towards determining amount of work, time to realize the value, and cost.