Nearly half the calls I receive each week are from online store owners frustrated over money they’ve apparently poured down the toilet. The conversation begins most always the same, “I hired XYZ and I don’t think they knew what they were doing.”
In some companies’ defense, there are plenty of small business folk who don’t take the time to truly understand the services they’re ordering and the contracts they sign. Some clients also do not properly convey their needs. A well-trained rep, however, can often discern what the actual needs of a business are, even if the client doesn’t use the proper terminology.
There are plenty of services and products, however, that land on the middle line—the ones that separate legitimate, necessary services and questionable offerings. While the blame really does, most often, lie with the business owner (due to lack of real research), there’s plenty of misleading content appearing in the top results of search engines and reference sites. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that the top myths account for a significant amount of wasted money.
Here are 10 of the top myths I’ve discovered as a direct result of helping to pick up the pieces and fix what went wrong, or completely start over on ecommerce sites.
- There are SEO folk who know the secrets of how it all works. There are many who claim to know the “secrets” to how search engines work with content, especially Google. The fact is, Google publishes everything you need to know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for its platform, and there are hundreds of sites that provide more detailed explanations of how it all works. Reputable SEO professionals are honest about this: you’re paying for their dedication to the field of SEO; they spend countless hours researching and getting to understand your product line and target audience. In short: there’s nothing an SEO pro can do that you cannot—you hire one because you don’t want to exhaust all your time and energy learning the ins and outs, and because he or she dedicates 100% of work time to this all-important element.
- If you build it, they will come. This isn’t Field of Dreams, so come back to the real world. Unless you’ve developed a totally unique product that will instantly attract millions, you have to work—hard—at building a business. So stay away from freelancers and companies that tell you how “easy” it is to just open a store and sit back and wait for the money to reach your bank account.
- There are Tons of Social Media Experts. An expert is someone who knows nearly everything in his field. Social media trends change every day. With that, it’s impossible for anyone to know everything there is to know about social media. Instead, look for someone who is social media savvy, very active in efforts and has the ability to come up with unique ways to promote your business. I often wonder why, when classifying someone as an expert in court requires extensive documentation and resources, people are so quick to believe someone’s self-professed “expert” label on their own web site. Look for pros being labeled as such by other, legitimate, business users.
- Pay-for-Followers and Pay-for-Likes services will bring me more business. While it’s possible a handful of people may begin to truly like what you have to say, and it’s remotely possible they can spin your tweets to the masses, this is one of those “results not typical” practices. The majority of pay-for-follower services result in “sock puppet” accounts being created or pyramid scheme accounts. They’re rarely of any real value. Save your money and earn your keep.
- According to XYZ, each of my followers is worth X pennies. This is a prime example of how statistics fool us. Simply put, there’s no true way to pinpoint just what a follower is worth because of the lapse of time it takes to convert a follower into a paying customer. It could take hours, days, weeks, months or years before any fan or follower makes a purchase. It’s not so much about the followers or fans you have, but rather whether or not those people take action by either shopping with you or referring you to others.
- Free is free. There is a plethora of online tools that are zero cost to install and use, but don’t confuse the practice of using Open Source and “free” services with what it actually costs to configure, implement and maintain content. Even if you’re doing everything yourself, time is money. Nothing is totally free, and sometimes paying for services or products that make the job easier far outweighs the time you’d spend working with open source software and applications. (BTW, here’s an older article at Forbes, but it still applies and is worth a read!)
- The more incoming links, the better. Only legitimate incoming links help you. In fact, Google and other search engines continuously update their systems to punish sites subscribing to free-for-all link pages and the likes. So be careful about submitting your website to the wrong directories. (And, yes, I’m aware of the controversy behind bad links v good links – in this case I’m referring to the long-term practice of using link farms and other questionable actions as outlined by Google.)
- I need a high-end SSL certificate and other seals to instill confidence. Anything that tells shoppers you take security and privacy seriously helps, but don’t forget what the media and other resources tell the most basic of users: “Look for the padlock.” While higher-end seals and scanning services can help, the average user doesn’t look for them. If you have to choose between paying thousands per year on additional scanning and improving your site’s usability and word-of-mouth campaigns, go for the latter.
- I don’t need a toll-free phone number because people prefer email or social media. While many online shoppers want to just send a message, there are plenty who call companies to test legitimacy. So, yes, you need a phone number, preferably toll-free, as well as a professional answering system to put folks more at ease after hours. That, and many older folk are still a bit confused about how the internet works, and will often opt to pick up the phone when they have a question.
- People would rather have free shipping than the ability to return products. Ideally, shoppers want both, but when weighing options—especially with higher-ticket items—customers want peace of mind knowing if the product doesn’t suit them they can return it. If you cannot afford to offer both features, your best bet is to make shipping affordable (don’t inflate costs) and offer a 30- to 90-day return policy. And enough with requiring shoppers pay return shipping if the item is damaged or not as described—customers should never have to pay for your or the shipping carrier’s shortcomings.
There are plenty more myths to the business of ecommerce. Believe me, I’ve heard more stories than you can imagine.
Not sure if the advice you’ve received is fact or fiction? Ask on…