Driving Traffic to Your eBay Store or Website

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As discussed above, PowerSellers often operate an eBay store or website. They know, however, that maintaining their status as PowerSellers requires more than having great stuff to sell and a site from which to sell it. As any retailer will tell you, there are no sales if you can't get the customers to the store. The same is true online. Below we provide some common approaches to increasing traffic to your eBay store or website.

Create great content and links. The most effective and low-cost method of driving traffic to any site is to create reliable and useful content that encourages other sites to link to it. For example, Glassine Surfer lists all ongoing eBay stamp auctions (not just its own auctions) at its site, making it a destination for many collectors. Any way that you can create content that makes others want to link to your site will increase your placement in Google searches (that is, your site will show up higher in listings as more sites link to your site). For example, Nolo, the publisher of this program, provides extensive free legal information at its website, making it one of the most linked-to legal sites on the Web.

Search engines and keywords. Most people find their desired Web destinations via search engines. Two types of listings appear in the results for any search: relevant and sponsored. Relevant listings are the primary search results that appear on the search page. Relevance (the order in which they are listed) is determined by the search engine algorithm (a mathematical formula that uses factors such as the content in a site), its domain name, material in its header (the headline that appears in the bar on top of your browser), information in its meta tags (information buried in the website code), and the number of sites that are linked to it. (By the way, if you are interested in seeing who is linked to your website, type “link:” followed by the address of your website, into the Google search engine; for example, “link:www.sitename.com.”)

Sponsored links usually appear at the top and in the right margin of the search results pages. You can become a sponsored link by purchasing (or bidding on) keywords at a search company. For example, at the Google.com home page, you can click on the “Advertising Programs” link and buy keywords (Google calls them “Adwords”) after you pay a small setup fee of approximately $5. Keyword are the words or terms that Web users type into a search engine to start their search. For example, if your business sold crocheted clothing items for infants, it might purchase the words “crochet” and “baby,” and your ad would pop up when a user searched for crocheted baby hats.

In reality, keyword buying is more complex than it sounds. Your choice of keywords is crucial, because if you use terms that are not specific or appropriate, you will have wasted your money. Additionally, you often must bid for keywords against competitors. If you have the top bid, you will pay that amount every time someone clicks on your link when it appears in the search engine results.

There’s strong sentiment in the online community for and against keyword buying. Some marketing people, especially those doing business in highly competitive and crowded fields, believe that keyword buying is an effective way to rise to the top of the heap. Others believe that it’s useless trying to outbid competitors all of the time and that the only one who profits is the search engine. It is true that keyword prices have escalated in the past few years, making them a more expensive form of marketing.

In any case, everyone agrees that if you do buy keywords, you must closely monitor their effectiveness. If you are not getting any results from certain keywords, ditch those terms — fast. And, of course, if keywords in general are not generating sufficient returns, stop paying for them. For more information, type “Buy keywords” into your search engine.

Banner ads. As you probably know, banner ads are short advertising messages that appear at websites other than your own. Like billboards along a highway, your business can strategically place ads across the Web by purchasing this advertising space. Like any other form of advertising, the challenge is to get the viewer’s attention and motivate him or her to take a closer look — in this case, to click on the banner ad, which will take the viewer  to your site. It’s a big challenge for a small ad. To get help in creating banners that get noticed, check out online sites such as WOWBanners.

Once you have created an ad and decided where to place it, there are various ways to actually purchase and place the ads. You may buy directly from a particular website by clicking on one that has a sign seeking advertising (“Advertise on our site”), you may purchase ad space from a third-party agent — for example, BannerSpace — or you may be able to do a banner ad exchange (check one of the many free banner ad exchange sites). Unless you’re using a free banner ad exchange, you pay for these ads either by impression (every time your banner appears), by click-through (every time someone clicks on your banner ad), or by sale (every time someone clicks on your ad and then buys your product). As with keywords, banner ads must be closely monitored for effectiveness. There are various ways to do this — for example, placing hidden code at your website that monitors click-throughs. If you’re not getting responses or increased sales, promptly modify or pull the ad.

Affiliate programs. An affiliate program is any kind of arrangement whereby one website pays another for delivering sales or traffic. If you sell one-of-a-kind or niche products at your site, you can offer commissions (or other rewards) to third-party sites that drive customers to your site. For example, if your eBay store sells a specific brand of high-end audio equipment, you may wish to establish an affiliate system with audiophile websites; or if your eBay store sells safety helmets for young baseball players, affiliating with local Little League sites makes sense. Affiliate programs may be set up in various ways, but the key element is creating a method for tracking the referred shopper, usually done by attaching a "tracking code" to the URL (or link) that you give to the affiliate. You will likely need help from a programmer, software application or online marketing assistant such as LinkShare or CommissionJunction. To find help, type "set up affiliate system" into your search engine.

Building a community. The key to eBay's success has been its ability to unite customers in a community atmosphere. You can do the same by creating a community among the visitors to your site. For example, if your eBay business sells soccer supplies, you may want to set aside a portion of your website for a chat room where customers can comment on soccer matches, create links for soccer enthusiasts, offer discounted tickets to soccer matches, or perhaps offer an interactive game in which players pick World Cup winners.

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