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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keywords and meta tags and SEO, OH MY!

Being new to trying to make a go of our independent website, I have to say these areas are HARD and can be overwhelming! You get your inventory online only to see that you are not really getting any traffic after months of work. Friends in the know say it's probably your meta tags. My what?? Yes, that's right, meta tags, keywords and SEO. Fixing them is tedious but it's got to be done if you want your items to be found. All you can do is go through each listing, one by one by one and get these right. The bad news is that you will not see instant results from your hard work, it takes time to see better bounce rates, traffic and sales. We have been concentrating on this for about 3 weeks and we have seen some slight improvement to our bounce rate. It's dropped from 65% to 59% which means our keywords are starting to attract the right visitors for our site. The good news is that by the time you are done revising all those original listings you should have meta tags and keywords down pat and your new arrivals should be in a better position to be found from the start.

These sites below helped us a great deal and we're sharing how we used these sites. We don't know yet if we're doing it right but we'll update you as we see results. These sites were recommended to us by the above people in the know at The Selling Lounge.

Use the first to help with the most popular keywords for your item. If you're revising a listing, you can plug the item url into the box and you'll get a whole list of keywords. Compare those to your original keyword choices. If you are working on a brand new listing type in your item and see what comes up. Word your description around the best keywords. In either case, choose which are best for your item and write your description around them. Make sure they are relevant keywords!
Google Keyword Tool

We used this second site to fine tune our meta descriptions and keywords. This one tells you the exact number of characters and keywords that are "robot" friendly. It also grades your keyword, title, and description relevancy. These concepts are hard to explain and the best advise is to learn as you go. You'll soon get the hang of how these three things relate to each other.
SEO Centro meta tag analyzer

We also came across this next site a week or so ago. It shows where your item is placed in the major search engines based on your keyword phrases. We still have a lot of work to do but this tool has shown some improvement in ranking for some of our listings. Any sign of improvement keeps us focused and motivates us to continue working on keywords, meta tags and SEO, OH MY!
Mike's Marketing Tools

Good Luck!

Don't put your shipping info at the beginning. I've always done this because many buyers don't read to the end but apparently this is all wrong if you want your items to be found in search. Search engines read only so much of the listing and they start at the beginning. If your shipping info or any info other than your item description is at the top, chances are your item will not be placed well in searches.

Share with us any SEO tips you may have picked up along the way. If you've used the above sites let us know if you found them to be helpful. Share your numbers with us and keep us motivated!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tips to save on shipping costs - Don't be afraid to ask sellers about alternative options

High shipping costs are on the minds of both online buyers and sellers. Most sellers understand that shipping costs can make or break a sale. Often it is not within a seller's power to offer more than one shipping method. Other times the calculators in place by the hosting site can be cumbersome and USPS becomes the easiest choice even if not the the fastest or cheapest means.

Of course, we can only speak for ourselves, but it is our opinion that sellers in the central US have a big advantage over east and west coast sellers when it comes to shipping cost. Being on the east coast we know that the cost to ship a 2lb package to zone 8 is much more expensive than the cost of zone 1 using USPS priority.

So how can buyers and sellers alike keep shipping costs affordable? In many cases, this can be accomplished by working together. I'm sure you've all seen this before but it's true. COMMUNICATION is the key.

  1. Be flexible! Offer as many shipping methods as possible. If your venue does not support multiple calculators state the alternative shipping methods that you do accept and that you will give an estimate upon request. Provide an email link.
  2. Answers those questions with as accurate a cost as you can with the information provided. Be prompt and polite. If USPS is the only choice because of your location simply tell your potential buyers this politely. Buyers can be very understanding and the way you handle questions can be the deciding factor.
  3. Don't gouge on handling. I know, I know, it costs money and time to package properly and a modest handling charge is reasonable. Our opinion only, in most cases a $6.00 handling fee on a single 2lb item isn't reasonable. And let's face it, that type of thing happens and gives us all a bad rep!
  4. Offer flat rate shipping whenever possible, especially on heavy items. Include insurance and handling in that rate.

  1. Read the fine print and if questions are encouraged, please email and ask about alternative shipping methods, especially on heavy items. Sometimes the selling venue does not support a calculator for FedEx ground but the seller may be willing and able to use that method if asked. Be sure to include your full address in your request, not just your zip code. While an estimate can be given with just a zip, a full address is required for exact shipping cost. Our experience is that FedEx ground is less expensive and has a faster delivery time than USPS on coast to coast shipping.
  2. Please do not assume that flat rate shipping means USPS priority in a flat rate box. Often times flat rate shipping means FedEx ground or UPS ground service.
  3. Please do not assume that the shipping cost of your widget has anything to do with what you paid for your widget. While the large retailers can use the shipping = % of sale method, most of us smaller guys cannot do that. If you paid $10.00 for your 5lb widget, we can't ship it for $5.00 without absorbing the extra cost.
  4. Educate yourselves on shipping costs. We really believe that some buyers (that do not also sell) have no idea how expensive postage is on packages and truly believe that all sellers are gouging them. Go to USPS calculator and do some tests with various weights and zip codes. Compare the differences in zones. You may be surprised. Here are some examples to get you started. 2lb package from zip code 12831(NY) to 93010(CA) , cost USPS priority $8.70. Same package from 12831 to 45458(OH), cost USPS priority $5.75. That's a $2.95 difference between zone 8 and zone 1. Add just 1 ounce and the price difference is even greater, $11.95(NY to CA), $7.10(NY to OH) for 2lb 1oz. $4.85 difference! These example are for USPS Priority shipping and do not factor in that some packages go over their dimension limits.
We hope that you don't find this too negative toward buyers or sellers. Our tips are most certainly geared to coast to coast shipping because we are on the east coast. We also probably sound a little negative toward using USPS priority but we do actually love it and use it as often as possible on lighter packages. USPS is convenient, easy to use, no fuss, no muss. In fact, our mail lady is great! She has never complained about picking up our packages right at our house, we don't even have to go out in the cold. Realistically though, since they changed to zones and dimensional calculations, we cannot ask our buyers to pay so much on heavier items when other options are available. In the near future, we will explain our specific shipping methods on different venues.

Happy Holidays!

Share your shipping tips with us please. Your shipping experiences, good or bad can help educate buyers and sellers alike.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Apple Butter update

My apple butter was finished in record time and I thought you'd like to see the finished results. My crock pot is only a couple years old and only has warm, low and hi settings, no medium. I've always been afraid to use the hi setting on this for fear it would burn. I took the chance this year and it paid off. My total cooking time dropped to about 26hrs.

I should also
www.dishesanddoodads.mybisi.commention that if you use your crock pot often you will probably have to buy a second one. Mine absorbed the flavor of the apple butter. The first time I made pot roast after making this, the meat had a light flavor of apple butter. It was edible but not really something I wanted to repeat so I'm back to making my pot roast on the stove.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wake up to the fabulous smell of holiday treats

We woke up this morning to the smell of spices coming from the kitchen crock pot. This got me thinking that some of you may enjoy what I think is a different treat to add to that plate of cookies. First, some history.

When my son was little we always had a hard time trying to decide what gift he could give to teachers, aunts, uncles and cousins that would not break our bank. Inevitably we turned to ornaments and enjoyed picking them out, especially when he got old enough to help choose the ornaments. However, a few years later, finding ornaments that were different became a challenge and of course it was predictable. By then he was old enough to help with baking so plates of homemade Christmas cookies was the gift for that year. Not exactly an original idea, but everyone was thrilled with them! Somehow we have now become the Christmas cookie suppliers for the whole family. Not a job I signed up for but there it is and even though all the family knows what the gift from my son will be, we dare not change it. What to do? Add something other than cookies to the mix.

Now, the delicious smell of spices. Over the years we have added homemade black raspberry jelly or apple sauce to the plate of cookies. Then I started making apple butter! This was a hit like no other. Since my family is originally from Pa. apple butter was always in the fridge until we moved to NY, so this is something they really enjoy. It's not hard and the list of ingredients is short. The toughest work is cleaning the apples when you make your apple sauce. Of course you could use store bought apple sauce but it won't taste as good and will add to the cost. You need about 9 quarts to start and apple sauce is just apples, sugar, cinnamon (optional) and a little water in the bottom of a big pot. Apple butter does have a fairly long cooking time but the aroma that fills the house is worth it.

Here's what you'll need
  1. A crock pot
  2. 9 quarts apple sauce
  3. 3 cups sugar
  4. 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  7. canning jars and lids
Fill the crock pot with apple sauce (you will have some left), add all of the ingredients except 1 cup of sugar. Set your crock pot on medium, cover loosely and let it go until it is reduced by about half. The time this takes depends on your crock pot, mine has been on for about 16hrs and is not quite the consistency that I want yet. When the first batch of apple sauce is reduced, add the remaining sauce and the last cup of sugar and continue cooking until you have the thickness and color that you want. I cook mine for 1 1/2 - 2 days but we like ours thick and dark in color. Of course you can increase or decrease the sugar and spices to meet your taste buds. Some recipes will suggest using a drink mixer wand to give a smooth consistency but I don't bother with that. When your apple butter is done, follow your canning procedure. Chances are this isn't your first time canning but if it is search the internet for instructions.

We hope that you enjoy this recipe and that your family will also. Be careful though, my sister in law actually told me I could not start this and then decide not to make it anymore!

Happy Holidays!

Do you have a favorite holiday treat? We'd love it if you'd share. Also, if you try this apple butter recipe, please tell us how you like it. Did you alter the recipe?

Google Checkout has been added for your convenience

Dishes and Doodads wants to make your online shopping trip as easy as possible. We've always accepted Paypal for your convenience and are happy to say that we also accept Google Checkout. This is brand new for us and we hope that you take advantage of the great service and privacy that Google Checkout provides. Please let us know if you encounter any difficulties.

Happy Shopping!