My store is open - now what?

In this article, we will give you some tried and true methods for marketing your website. Some will require an expert and some will require only your time. Ha. 'Only' your time.

1) Pay Per Click Advertising.  Google AdWords is the tool used by just about every retailer online. The premise is simple: You create an account at Google AdWords, load it with some money (as much as you want), and create text-based ads that show up on the 'right side' of Google search results. This right side is called the 'sponsored links' area. You decide what keywords will be searched for and tell Google how much you are willing to pay for them. For example - "ford parts, chevy parts, gm parts, acdelco parts" to name a few. Every keyword you can imagine will have anywhere from a dozen to thousands of advertisers. Google will rotate the ads as best as they can and you will start getting visitors to your site almost immediately. You pay for each 'unique' visitor to your site. You only pay as much as you tell Google you are willing to pay on a daily basis. Naturally you pay by credit card.

2) Affiliate Marketing.  Joining a company such as cj.com, or linkshare.com is what is called 'affiliate marketing'. The idea here is that people who have websites and make money off advertising get paid a commission for sending you traffic when a sale occurs at your site. That means you only pay when it works. Sounds great right? Well the hard part is getting the owners of websites to join your affiliate program. In the automotive world, you should expect to give a commission of 8-15% per order.

3) SEO - This is my least favorite method of promoting a website. While it certainly works in some industries, it is almost a complete waste of time, effort, and money.  Certainly it should be 'part' of your overall strategy, but you should expect SEO to take six months to a year to generate a significant amount of traffic which can still lead to zero sales. Be very careful when hiring a supposed SEO expert. Be sure to get examples of their success in industries that have 'application-specific' products or are technical in nature.  Selling auto parts online is NOT like selling services or 'fun' products like clothing or music.

4) Channel Selling and Price Comparison engines. This is one of my favorite methods of building traffic and getting sales. The process is fairly simple. You choose which sites you want to appear on, such as shopping.com, nextag, and the like, and you upload your inventory file as frequently as possible. Consumers will search by part number, or by product description and find a result. A link will say something like 'see prices from ten stores' and when clicked, viewers will see a list of merchants selling the item. Ultimately consumers will click through to your site and you pay for that click. Click-through fees are typically $0.25 which can be 500% less than Google AdWords. There are dozens and dozens of price comparison engines. Since you only pay for clicks when your products are found specifically, we think it’s a great way to BUY traffic.  We have tools to help you export your inventory in the popular Google format.

5) Email marketing = Spam. Buying a mailing list, or emailing people you do not know will hurt more than it helps. Be careful. On the other hand, once your business gets going, be sure to email your customers at least once per month if they have opted in to receive email marketing from you.

6) Craigslist. It is going to be time-consuming to create Craigslist postings, but it is free and Craigslist is in the top 25 most popular sites on the web.

7) Social Networking Sites. You can buy pay per click or 'impression' ads on Facebook and others.    While it is not an obvious place to sell auto parts, you can get tons of exposure quickly and inexpensively.

Of all the suggestions and solutions above, we recommend starting with the price comparison engines. The most important price comparison engines on a global basis are shopping.com, bizrate.com, and nextag.com. We can create custom feeds for sites that our export format does not instantly work on.

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