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Update July 2009: We are no longer publishing content to this blog. For previously posted articles please read below.

Social Media Links Roundup

We’ve all heard a lot about social media over the past year but I have found that many business owners still don’t really know what the big deal is, how the social media world applies to their business/company or what to do after creating an account on Facebook. If this describes you or your business, Kari Hanson has some answers for you in her post on how to get started with social media.

And for the more advance social media player, PR Squared has posted a couple of Social Media Tactics articles that are worth the read. Can be found here, and here (and I love the image used on this second post! Awesome find Todd!)

On a slightly different note, Chris Brogan has a great post titled Presentation Secrets for Social Communicators. Not social media you say? It’s all about conversation I say.

Yesterday BuzzBin interviewed Social Media expert, blogger and podcaster C.C. Chapman and for some great insight into Social Media head over and give it a read!

And the best possible way to finish of Links 2.0 Visit this Friday is with this post about the 9 worst mistakes you can make in Social Media.

Have a great weekend!

Blog Design Tips

Content is King. Google doesn’t look at your design. Many visitors will often read your content from their favorite RSS reader.

So really, how important is Blog Design for your business?

Does it affect your traffic? Does it affect your subscriber base? Does anyone care?

In short – Yes!

Here’s a few observations made while surfing the web (Hey, I do A LOT of surfing!)

I should also mention that I’m not even talking about things like floating angels, snowflakes that follow my cursor or background colors that automatically change every 30 seconds thanks to the wonders of javascript (for these sites I’ll stay around only long enough to laugh for a bit, then surf elsewhere). The following is a reference for bloggers who are actually trying to succeed online but may be using their blogs default template or a poorly designed alternative.

  1. The search engines don’t care if your site looks any good, but I do and you’re writing for me not Google. If you’re not writing for me then I’m not coming back anyway.
  2. It’s about perceived value. If I hit your site and see you’ve clearly put 0 effort into your design, I’ll automatically question how much time you’ve put into your message. I may still read your post depending on how I arrived, but I’ll be reading with a filter that didn’t need to be there in the first place.
  3. There’s no shortage of competition out there. So unless you happen to be the # 1 voice in your industry and provide indispensable information with every post, which is unlikely, give me a reason to stay, not a reason to leave.
  4. The package may not make the product (see next point), but it can certainly break it.
  5. If you break new design ground you may generate a temporary buzz but if you have nothing to say your creative wonder of a blog isn’t going to convince me to come back a second time.
  6. If your site uses yellow, red, pink or other light font colors I can’t read it… I’m partially color-blind and you just lost me.
  7. It doesn’t matter if your regulars use RSS feeders unless you WANT a soapbox. Your job as a blogger is to keep people coming back to the SITE. You can’t have a conversation if your readers stay at arms length so give them a friendly place to come back to!
  8. There’s something to be said for image. You don’t go to a dentist with discolored, cracked teeth or a chiropractor who sports a cane and you generally wouldn’t buy from a sales man dressed in a speedo! People are coming to your blog with certain expectations, understanding those expectations and exceeding them is better than the alternative.
  9. Don’t design for your tastes (unless you’re an historically proven trendsetter). Let me put that another way: I don’t care that you really like yellow and black; the colors of wasps, bees and danger signs don’t belong in large quantities on your blog template!
  10. This won’t apply to all blogs, but I read a large sampling of business related blogs and this one is for those bloggers. If your blog template NEVER changes, you obviously aren’t trying new things or testing the results and I’m going to question your online business savvy.
  11. Having a great looking blog doesn’t mean you need to break the bank hiring a designer. There are literally tens, if not hundreds of thousands of completely free template designs out there if you’re using a blog platform like WordPress. (see here or here)

I’ll end with a caveat and final thought

My Caveat

A lack of a unique and trendy Blog design shouldn’t hold you back from starting a blog. At the end of the day, it’s your message that brings people in, not your design (unless you are a blog about design). That being said, a sleek design should be at the top of your ‘To Do’ list once you get the ball rolling!

My Final Word (for today)

If you get involved in a redo of your blog template, don’t forget your priorities; a blog’s template should always serve to Enhance the presentation of your content and never overshadow it, and what’s really important in a Blog template is speed, accessibility and clarity.

Do you have any great tips that I haven’t covered here? Or do you disagree with any of my advice? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Links 2.0 Visit column launched

Now that the typically busy summer is drawing to a close I’ll be redoubling my efforts to blog more regularly about information you can use to help improve your business and marketing efforts online.

And to get started on the right foot, I’d like to announce the launch of a new column here at 1ShoppingCart’s ShopTalk blog: Links 2.0 Visit (links to visit!)

For today, let’s look at the flip side of a couple of Web 2.0 coins:

Web 2.0 PR

Brian Solis takes a look at what went wrong with the iPhone pricing fiasco, and how Apple fixed it. A good look at a company who is great with Web 2.0 PR:
Apple PR recovery
Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning PR agency in Silicon Valley.

On the other end of the spectrum, Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication & Technology takes a look at a company (A&P Groceries) who completely botched a Web 2.0 PR opportunity:
A&P fiasco

Embracing Web 2.0

Meanwhile, Todd Defren, PR guru and Principal at SHIFT Communications, looks at a company who is embracing the social web in a great way:
GM gets it right

On the flip side, here’s a similar example that’s a little more dubious. Geoff Livingston discusses the CIA’s efforts to create a social community for spies… yes, you read that correctly:
What is the CIA thinking!?

Practical eCommerce Interviews 1ShoppingCart

Last month we were contacted by an editor of Practical eCommerce looking for an interview for their upcoming Shopping Cart Review edition and were happy to oblige and answer their questions.

After submitting our interview answers to Practical eCommerce they went through the standard journalistic license filter and, because the finished product is not the same as the one we supplied (which is fine!), I thought it would be nice to post the full interview here for the benefit of our Merchants.

Make sure you click over and check out the final Practical eCommerce version of the Hosted Shopping Cart Review Interview too.

Hosted Solution Questions - from PracticaleCommerce.com

1. Why should an ecommerce business consider a hosted shopping cart, versus purchasing a one-time cart license?

A hosted solution ensures:

Quick implementation and turn around, inclusive security, 24/7 monitoring, no investment in infrastructure, full & continued support, regular automatic & free software upgrades, a maintenance free environment, easy data management accessible from anywhere in the world and a generally more robust system.

In addition to what you would find in a standard hosted shopping cart solution, 1ShoppingCart also offers advanced support, industry leading security with full CISP/PCI certification, and fully integrated email, broadcast and affiliate marketing modules.

As a hosted solution we are responsible for the entire infrastructure, as well as maintaining the safe and smooth operation of our merchant’s data and order process and we’re fully prepared to deal with any emergency situations that may occur with our merchants businesses online.

Really, a hosted solution is perfect for most entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses which don’t have or want to invest in their own IT departments, and choosing to run your business online using a hosted shopping cart solution would prove to be the cheaper, easier and least risky solution for most business owners.

2. Critics say that hosted carts are less flexible than licensed carts. Is this true?

That’s such a broad generalization. It’s sort of like saying all domestic cars are less reliable than imports.

Like licensed carts, not all hosted carts were created equal and I’m sure you’d find both more and less flexible versions in both categories.

The only aspect of the 1ShoppingCart system that could possibly be called ‘less flexible’ was done by design and would be the actual shopping cart checkout page which resides on our servers and still offers a large amount of customization.

We’ve always focused on listening to the requirements and needs of the merchants using our system and have been very fortunate to have attracted a core group of merchants early on who also happen to be among the leading internet marketers and entrepreneurs online today.

Their feedback has helped us create a shopping cart page built to provide as much customization as possible while still providing one of the most secure shopping experiences currently available.

And while it may be true that some licensed carts may offer slightly more ‘shopping cart page’ customization (as long as you’re comfortable programming your own changes or paying for a developer to do it) many of those same carts lock you into very specific templates and design constraints through your entire storefront (website, catalogue pages etc); something you won’t encounter with a hosted shopping cart like 1ShoppingCart.com.

As a whole, 1ShoppingCart’s eCommerce platform offers the ultimate eCommerce flexibility with control over the entire process through its unique integration method, providing FULL control over the design, look & feel, SEO etc. of your own website and order process with absolutely zero design limitations.

3. What does 1ShoppingCart cost? Price ranges?

Our Shopping Cart package is just $29 per month and includes everything needed to run a business online.

One of the benefits of being a hosted solution allows for us to offer a whole suite of more advanced tools including email and broadcast marketing, affiliate marketing, ad tracking, dedicated IP services etc., without having to charge our merchants until their businesses are prepared to take advantage of the increased functionality. All modules are pre-integrated and available with a flip-of-a-switch readiness that allows us to grow alongside our merchants needs.

Standard packages cost between $29 and $79 monthly with discounts available on annual packages. The low monthly prices with no start up fees ensure a low start-up and maintenance cost for any business.

4. By PeC’s count, there are over 300 hosted and licensed carts available. How can a smaller business know which of these is the best fit? Any advice for a smaller business owner?

It’s hard to do when you’re first starting out, but it’s really important to think about where your business is going to be in 1, 3 and 5 years and choose a platform that will continue to be a viable solution throughout your growth.

Finding a solution that can grow with your business, while not having to pay for features you aren’t using right from the get-go will prove to be an extremely valuable asset for your small business.

Also consider the amount of time you want to invest in maintaining and upgrading your eCommerce solution. Most business owners will agree that time is much better spent on efforts to grow their business, not in applying the latest patch to your software or in long conference calls trying to figure out if your order process meets the newest stringent requirements being set out by the credit card industry; and that means a hosted solution is the way to go.

Other things to consider include:

5. Other thoughts on hosted or licensed carts?

The fact is there are a variety of great licensed and hosted solution shopping carts available. You really have to compare what you’re getting for your money and consider how much time you want to, as a business owner, dedicate to integrating and maintaining your shopping cart process.

At 1ShoppingCart.com we’re very focused on the needs of the small business owner and ensuring a flawless and secure shopping experience. This includes supporting our merchants through the entire growth of their business online, enabling them to concentrate on growing and marketing their own businesses.

When you invest your business in a hosted system like 1ShoppingCart you’re paying for an entire secure infrastructure where millions of dollars have already been invested to build-in the highest levels of certified security, including PCI/CISP certification through the credit card industry and HackerSafe certification through ScanAlert. Both of which might be unrealistic for the average small business owner to implement but both of which are absolutely necessary for business online today.

For instance, the credit card industry enforces fines and penalties of up to $500,000 PER INCIDENT of credit card data loss when not PCI/CISP compliant. Alternatively, HackerSafe is the world’s most recognized assurance of internet security and studies have shown that displaying the HackerSafe logo is enough to increase conversions by up to 14%. 1ShoppingCart features the HackerSafe logo on the checkout process and will shortly be making it available for our merchant’s websites!

Ad Tracker Webinar is now live for Free Download

About a month ago we held a free teleseminar to try and help you to better understand AdTrackers, and learn how to use them to benefit your business.

Well, a few days after that we up and moved. It wasn’t a spurious decision, but it has taken us a while to settle in and get back on track in some areas (okay, it’s taken ME a while to settle in and get back on track in some areas)

Which is to say… I have finally found the time to post this Webinar for your downloading pleasure!

I apologize to everyone who has been waiting for me for the last 3 weeks!

You can watch the webinar for free by clicking here. (This is a 55 meg file and may take more than 60 seconds to load, depending on your connection speed)

Topics included:

  • Present a coupon automatically when people click on your ads
  • Split Test up to 3 unique landing pages to pick only winners
  • Count your leads captured as a result of all your clickthroughs
  • Prevent yourself from becoming a victim of Click Fraud
  • Link sales data from your ads or links to your cash flow
  • …plus many other Ad Tracker tips and tactics to earn extra money
  • Enjoy!

    1ShoppingCart is Listening

    Practical eCommerce has a short post today titled “What Do You Dislike About Your Shopping Cart?” and I thought I would take a minute to mention a couple of things.

    First, as I mentioned in my comments on Practical eCommerce, in our fast-paced, online world, customer feedback is everything. We can’t help you improve your business without at least some of you helping us improve ours.

    And, in a way that traditional offline businesses will never experience, online businesses have the opportunity to create a real reciprocal relationship with their users/customers/merchants that can benefit everyone involved.

    I’ve mentioned it before but we love hearing your comments. In fact, a significant portion of 1ShoppingCart’s evolution can be traced back to the comments and feedback we’ve received over the years. We love seeing how people are using our system and hearing ways in which we can help improve it for you.

    Which brings me to the next thing I wanted to mention…

    If you dislike something about our service, know of something that would improve its functionality, have something on a wish list that you would really like to see, or want to tell us about anything we’ve done right so far (we like hearing the good stuff too!) tell us about it! I’m not going to say we can jump on every change right away, things take time, but we also know that we can’t think of everything, especially when considering the hundreds of different industries our software is being used in.

    Lastly, I just want to say thank you; both from 1ShoppingCart for your comments and personally. I’ve been with 1ShoppingCart for a number of years and seeing how our merchants use our system, talking over problems you encounter and watching people, some completely new to eCommerce, excel using our software has really been an inspiration for me to come to work each day and try to turn it around and help you, when and where I can.

    So thank you, and if you have something to say, say it, because 1ShoppingCart is listening.

    The Blog & Twitter

    Whoa… has it really been almost three weeks since my last post to the blog here at 1ShoppingCart.com!?

    Time flies when you’re having fun! Sorry for my absence!

    So what’s been happening?

    Well, we’ve been hard at work on the next huge release to come your way… It’s going to shock and please you, and I’m really excited to get this one out the door, unfortunately I can’t tell you much more just yet… maybe next week

    Really, the big news and main reason for my recent absence is that we’ve moved into a newer, bigger building and it’s been a crazy couple of weeks here at 1ShoppingCart

    I will be posting some photos of the new digs soon, but the paint has dried, the white-boards are almost up and the coffee machine is running, so it’s time to get back into a regular schedule once more!

    I’ve also been doing a lot of research & experimentation lately into some of the more popular Social Media Networks available online (how to use them to generate traffic, improve your SEO and even use as a marketing platform) and that’s been eating into my writing time

    I’ve been taking lots of notes though and as soon as I can organize them into something coherent I will pass them along to you!

    In the mean time, if you Twitter, add me to your friends list:

    http://twitter.com/mvaliant

    Another Upgrade for 1ShoppingCart!

    The paint’s still drying on the new affiliate module and the response has been fantastic. Aside from taking longer to update existing data into the new system than we originally anticipated, the upgrade occurred without any major problems!

    The only real complaint we’ve received so far was about having removed the Post Commission functionality from the Orders Menu. The good news is, this was only a temporary issue because of the more complex commission structures and this option will be added back to the affiliate module in the next update (this week!)

    Below I have included the top 50 questions that were asked in our Affiliate Module teleseminar last week. But before you get into that, I wanted to give you a really good reason to check back in here over the next few days!

    We are going to be releasing a completely redone Interface really soon, and I should have some screen shots to show off soon!

    Can’t Wait!!

    OR Watch the Newest version, completely redone in Camtasia by clicking here! (The company we used for the webinar lost the original recording!)

    Now… On with the Q&A!

    46 Questions Answered from the Affiliate Webinar

    1. Are we now able to issue refunds of the product amount only and not the shipping? Currently the entire total is refunded.

    The upgrade to the affiliate module does not include line item refunds. The good news is (** Sneak Peek Alert **) this IS a feature that has been built into the next generation of our shopping cart software.

    2. Is there a way to have a unique program for one affiliate that others don’t have access to?

    Not at this time. One of the core principles governing our affiliate module is, if you have a good affiliate, provide them with as much opportunity to refer your products as possible.

    3. Is there a way to allow the use of your own domain name in the affiliate link and also make that available for multiple websites.

    There is a script available within your account called the Advanced Installation Script. This script allows you to mask the URL that appears within your links. You can install this script (provided in both PHP & ASP) on as many URL’s as you need

    4. Do we need to create a different affiliate link for each product?

    No. Our system will automatically create affiliate links for each affiliate program you create. These links are valid for any product assigned to that program. Alternatively, each affiliate is assigned there own ‘Default affiliate link’ which will work for any of your products. All affiliate link creation is created automatically within the software

    5. If I am not paying for impressions and clicks, will the system still keep track of them?

    The new affiliate module has improved tracking and reporting and will now fully track all impressions, clicks, leads and sales, even when if the commission rates have been set to $0. Also, your affiliates will be able to see these stats, but will not receive referral email for sales that generate a $0 commission

    6. What is the “storeid?” Is that a specific program?

    The StoreID variable is a new addition to the new affiliate module. This variable will likely not get used very oftern, but will be useful for some merchants. Every affiliate program you create within your account will automatically be assigned a new StoreID. You can add this as a variable to any of your One Click Buy Me Links (found on the Product Details page) to force the order to be assigned commission through a particular affiliate program. Simply add &storeid=# (where # represents the provided ID number for a specific question.) There is no storeID for the default affiliate program.

    7. If your newsletters are not set up in 1ShoppingCart.com is there a way to track leads for the affiliates?

    If an affiliate sends their affiliate link out in an email and people click on the link and purchase, our system will track the sales referrer regardless of provider. If they send out a link in email and people click through and sign up for your newsletter, the lead referral will only be tracked if you are using our email software

    8. Will the webinar portion be made available as an online tutorial along with the audio?

    Unfortunately, not at this time.

    9. I’ve been putting the different commission rate in the product file. So why would you set up a program?

    There are a few good reasons to switch over to the use of programs instead. First, Programs offer a good way to categorize your product list. Second, programs allow you better control over groups of products with like commission rates; and third, you can setup, and track, unique affiliate media (banners, ads, email templates etc) on a program by program basis

    10. We don’t allow affiliates to earn commission from their own orders. Is there a way to exclude their own orders from their commission report?

    Not at this time; but if the name on an order matches the name of the referrer, you can quickly remove the assigned commission from the product manually

    11. Sometimes we get repeat orders through the phone, but the original order was through an affiliate. How can we get this order into the system so it tracks the affiliate commission?

    This is only possible if you are entering your phone orders into your online shopping cart. If this is the case and you know an affiliate referred an order before hand, you can easily pull up that affiliates record, use their affiliate link and then place the order. Your affiliate will then get credit for that order. ** Remember to clear your cookies afterwards so that affiliate doesn’t get any unintended commissions!

    12. Do we pay commissions with our own business checks or do you supply a check?

    All payments (whether by PayPal or check) are your responsibility. We provide you with all the reporting and information you need to track your affiliates and know what to pay them

    13. On the reports section can you create a report that has the affiliates name and address?

    Currently, affiliate address information does not appear on any of the standard affiliate reports. This information IS exported for you in the Pay Your Affiliates section

    14. So I can assign products to programs and the banners will be automatically updated with that info OR do I assign banners to programs-does it matter which order I do this?

    You could assign both Products and banners (or other types of media) to an affiliate program. It does not matter in which order you perform these tasks

    15. Will you be emailing a summary of all changes? There’s a lot of info here and a text summary would be very helpful.

    16. Are voided sales marked on sales reports? It seems as though you had to go to a special report to see them. If this is so, why are voided sales not indicate in all the reports?

    Our sales reports currently offer summaries of available data. The new affiliate sales reports will contain specifics on debited and voided sales as it relates to specific affiliates

    17. When will the new affiliate program be available?

    Our new affiliate program should go live during the week of February 19th

    18. Do you recommend consultants who can help set up strategies around affiliate programs? The program seems straightforward but we could use help with the big picture.

    We do not currently have a relationship with any affiliate consultants

    19. So, we have 12 different products. I want to create a new program that points to a specific product landing page. I still want affiliates to get credit if they buy a different product. Do I need to assign the other 11 products to the new campaign?

    To have the new program link give credit for all 12 products, they would have to be in that program. You could also create a link within the existing program to point to that specific landing page.

    20. We offer lifetime commissions based on first affiliate referral (the first one gets credit). Is that changed?

    This functionality has not changed in the new system. If you are referring to recurring product orders, the same affiliate will always get the referral. Otherwise, our affiliate module has always used the last affiliate (or most recent) as the referrer for orders

    21. Can products be assigned to two programs at the same time?

    One product can only be assigned to a single affiliate program

    22. How will existing Affiliate Programs be affected by the new Program system? Will we need to make manual adjustments, or will there be a smooth transition?

    There will be a completely smooth transition and you won’t have to do anything to take advantage of most of the new functionality

    23. Can we now delete old media (banners, text links, etc.) instead of just overwriting them?

    This functionality was added to the affiliate module in 2006. You can delete any unassigned media (if it is assigned, you will have to unassign it first)

    24. If an order ever needs to be voided and placed again (to assign the correct affiliate for instance) what happens if a CVV2 code is required?

    If you ever need to do this for any reason and require the cvv2 number, you would have to contact your customer. We cannot store or pass the cvv2 number

    25. what if no affiliate was credited, and you want to credit one?

    You can void, and replace the order after clicking on your own affiliates link (and thus giving that affiliate credit) or use the Update Commission functionality on the Order Details page

    26. Are there any HTML banner generation programs you can recommend?

    We do not currently have any relationships with an HTML banner generation software provider

    27. As long as we have Pro Version of your software, this update will automatically show up in our admin panel?

    Correct, the new affiliate module will replace the old module completely and appear within your account without requiring any action from you

    28. Is this a purchased upgrade? or are you offering it for free?

    This upgrade is completely free for all “Professional” account holders

    29. Are you considering adding a third tier option to the system?

    Not at the moment

    30. Do we have to manually capture Affiliate’s sales in order for the commission to register?

    If you are processing your orders offline, or don’t have a gateway setup to process orders within your account, you will need to manually accept every order for the assigned commission referral to be activated

    31. Can we add $0 commissions and still have them trackable?

    Yes! $0.00 commissions will be fully tracked & reported by our system as long as the product is marked as commissionable, our tracking software will record which affiliate is associated with the sale. We now also track and report on all Impressions, Clicks and Leads even if you have set $0.00 commissions for them!

    32. Will there be any way when an Affiliate logs in to take them directly to our own page instead of having to go to the hard wired 1ShoppingCart Affiliate page?

    Not if you are using our Affiliate Sign-in page. This page has been designed to provide access to the affiliate admin area where your affiliates can access marketing material, affiliate links and comprehensive reports.

    33. Will we and our affiliates be able to see which sub-affiliates they have sponsored?

    At this time merchants can see who each affiliate was referred by on the individual affiliate details page. This information is not currently available to affiliates.

    34. Can you prevent an affiliate from clicking on their own affiliate links?

    There is no way to prevent anyone from clicking their own affiliate links. If you really wanted to prevent anyone from abusing an affiliate link, you could block their IP address manually once they sign up. We record everyones IP address in their client details page and provide an IP blocking security feature in the orders section of your account.

    35. You’ve released an integration with aMember recently. How will the new Affiliate Program work for aMember products?

    The affiliate program will not be affected by the aMember plug-in. When using the aMember plug-in through your shopping cart on our system, all transactions are controlled on our secure servers. This allows our affiliate program to function normally.

    36. As I understand, all my affiliates would need to have a website where potential leads/sales would click through from… is this correct?

    No, your affiliates do not, and have never required a website to use our affiliate module. There are different ways to setup your affiliate module, but it all comes down to an affiliate link and that link can be distributed through any method, whether that’s on a website, ads, email or offline media.

    37. if i wanted to bring on affiliates as a sales force that would refer our business to others, however do not have a website (i.e. our customers giving referrals)… what’s the best way to accomplish this?

    In order for our affiliate module to work, a sale has to be made through our shopping cart. While this would ideally occur in real-time on a website, we do have merchants who process orders offline and enter them into the shoppingcart admin panel after the fact. Once an order is created, you could then also assign appropriate affiliates to each order.

    38. What are the Buying/Upgrade details?

    $0 – It’s completely free! The upgrade of the affiliate module is included free for all professional account holders and does not require any additional fee.

    39. Can you add a feature that would allow us to pay x dollars per Referred Sale.

    You can already set this up on a product by product basis (see each products details page)

    40. what is second level commission?

    Also known as Tier 2 commissions, an affiliate would receive a second level commission only when an affiliate who they previously referred to your system generates a sale. The referred affiliate would receive a Tier 1 commission. This is only applicable if you, as the merchant, have turned this feature on by specifying a Tier 2 commission amount within your account.

    41. Is there a way to set the length of time an affiliate cookie is in effect? e.g. 6 months or 2 years?

    The length of the lifetime of the affiliate cookies can be set from the Affiliates >> Affiliate Setup >> Commission Setup page within your account. Look for the field labeled Default Cookie Expiration

    42. Does the destination URL have the individual affiliate participant’s code embedded in it (and does the shopping cart automatically populate that), or could it be a general URL to the home page of my site, for example?

    This question may be a little confused. There are two different things happening here. First, someone has to click on an affiliate link, on the affiliates website or in an email; this affiliate link contains the affiliates individual ID and is automatically generated for each affiliate by our system. Once potential clients click on an affiliate link, they will be sent to our system where we will cookie them with your information, and then forward them onto a destination URL that you specified when you setup your affiliate program; generally this is your website where a potential customer can then browse your goods and make a purchase.

    43. Can you clarify programs and products? Would you have products that might be in two programs?

    The new affiliate module has a strict 1 product/1 program relationship, meaning a product can only be in one affiliate program at any given time. Affiliate programs are simply a means to organize your product list into logical groups that would all use the same commission rate, or the same marketing material etc. Many merchants may only ever use a single affiliate program and have all their products included in it and that’s fine. But if you have different product lines that may have different commission rates, or you want to provide different banners for your digital products than you provide for your shipped goods, multiple programs is the way to go.

    44. Can you assign different banners to different programs - instead of having banners be available to all affiliates - in other words if we wanted to create unique banners for a specific affiliate for a specific program

    You can definitely create unique banners and other media on a program by program basis, but all of your programs will be available to all of your affiliates.

    45. Is there any way to see which customers each affiliate has referred?

    Referring affiliate information can be found on each clients details page or from each Order Details page. Also, if you open the Affiliates >> Affiliate Reports >> Sales Report you can see exactly which customers each affiliate has referred by clicking on the MORE link in the first column.

    46. If you want to make someone a customer of a specific affiliate after they are already a prospect or a customer - can you?

    From the Order Details page, you can Post Commissions to any affiliate you choose, at any time. This will mark your selected affiliate as having referred that order.

    How do the Search Engines Rank?

    Click here to watch

    From WebProNews:

    American searchers spent a lot of time in January hitting the search engines. ComScore said Americans made 6.9 billion searches for the month, with Google handling 3.3 billion of them. Those searches gave Google 47.5 percent of the market, and that was a little increase over their December share. After Google, the other major search engines fell into line behind them.

    Yahoo held on to second place but lost some share, dropping to 28.1 percent, while Microsoft moved up a little to 10.6 percent. Ask.com saw its share drift down to 5.2 percent. Overall, people have been doing a lot more searching. January’s number of searches was up 26 percent over the same month in 2006.

    Blogging Tips and Tricks

    Tomorrow I am going to try and sneak you some information about an upcoming release… maybe screenshots even… but so far I haven’t been able to get my hands on them yet, so today I thought I would answer a couple quick techy questions I hear about our blog regularly…

    What blogging software do you use?

    Wordpress!! (and love it)

    Do you Ping?

    Of course. We were tagging and pinging before any marketer created the term to sell an info product.

    You could ping manually with one of the following services:

    Pingomatic
    Pingoat
    PingTheEmpire

    Or, take advantage of the built-in Wordpress ability to automatically ping for you (a little time consuming when posting) by adding any of the following lists into the Update Services field on the Wordpress Options >> Writing page:

    Elliott Backs list of 50+ pings
    A List in Warrior Forums
    A compiled and organized list of the above sources

    What Plugins do you use?

    All of the plugins we use can be found on Jim Westergrens excellent blog.

    Of course there are no end to useful plugins and I recommend searching for ones that may be useful for you (Search Google for Wordpress Plugins!)

    Do you get a lot of traffic?

    Oh! Now we’re getting personal

    Actually we do alright, and fluctuate between 1500 and 3000 unique visitors every single day.

    In fact, you can see exactly how many people are reading this blog right now, by checking out the ‘Visitors Online’ plugin at the bottom of our menu down the left hand side of the page. Generally we see 20 to 50 people online at any given moment.

    Did you submit your blog to directories?

    Yes and No. The SEO strategy I’ve used is a longer conversation than I have time for in this post, but yes I’ve submitted to directories in the past.

    I HAVEN’T paid for a single submission though. There are too many useful free sources online to worry about paying for any one in particular (this is a general comment & how I have pursued SEO for this blog only… not a strategy written in stone!)

    I am more of a linkbait fan, than a Link Ninja (& Link Ninja v.2) fan although both should be pursued with equal vigor

    Did I miss anything? Have any other burning questions?

    Just let me know and I will do my best to get them answered!

    Do you PPC?

    If you’re paying for ads on Yahoo! Sponsored Search, you need to be aware of changes that are going to take place as of February!

    On February 5th, 2007, Yahoo! Sponsored is adopting a system similar to Google Adwords and begin using ad quality and relevancy to determine ad position and bid price.

    But how will they be determining ‘Ad Quality’?

    According to Yahoo, Ad quality is determined by:

    1. The ad’s historical performance – its click-through rate relative to its position in search results.
    2. The ad’s expected performance – which is determined by various relevance factors considered by Yahoo!’s ranking algorithms, relative to other ads displayed at the same time.

    More from Yahoo!:

    This change, which will impact all advertisers, is designed to allow you to focus less on competitive bidding and more on the quality of your ads. By improving the quality of your ads and making them more relevant to users, you may be rewarded with a better ranking and reduced cost for your ads.

    They even provided this catchy little image to help explain it:

    Some other key changes and considerations to be aware of:

    This change has been anticipated for some time now, and should mean only good things for the relevancy of search results at Yahoo!. But it may mean a serious amount of work for current users who have to upgrade their account and check & modify all their existing ads.

    New & Improved Autoresponder Functionality in Your 1ShoppingCart Account!

    Okay, because I’ve received so many questions about what’s in store for 1ShoppingCart in 2007, I previously announced I was going to try and make more regular announcements on upcoming features in our eCommerce software. Earlier in January I announced the addition of shopping cart buttons, and today I have another nugget for you!

    Today we released some small, but important changes to the Manage Autoresponder section. If you use our Autoresponder functionality you can log in and see the new paging, sorting and search capabilities that have been added to the Autoresponder section of your eCommerce account!

    In the Autoresponder section of your account, you can now choose to display 20, 50, 100, or even 500 Autoresponders per page and we’ve added easy to use page navigation options to both the top and bottom right corners of the Autoresponder table. In addition, we’ve added search functionality to the bottom of the page, allowing you to find any Autoresponder by either name or ID number!

    Thank You to all of our Beta Testers who supplied their feedback on this project!

    Here’s a little screen shot of where to look for changes on the Manage Autoresponders page within your account (*Note - columns have been removed so I could fit all the changes on one screenshot):

    How to Strengthen your Brand in 2007

    I just read Chris Browns holiday post on branding your business by updating and honing your message to match your target market.

    It’s a great post in so far as it briefly outlines information that every business owner should be thinking about.

    Outline of the post:

    1. Develop your benchmark
    2. Compare your organization to the various competitive choices available to your target market
    3. Analyze your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
    4. Focus on the Opportunities
    5. Identify your message
    6. Time & Money. Layout a timetable & identify your budget
    7. Implement the branding tactics

    And let me add two more:

    8. Seek customer feedback
    9. Rinse and Repeat

    Advice for 2007

    Advice for 2007

    Welcome to 2007 and my first post of the new year!

    Hope everyone had a happy and fun holiday season.

    We have a lot of really exciting things in the works for our merchants in the coming year but I thought I would start off with some good advice for 2007.

    I get a lot of people asking for eCommerce and online marketing advice and am happy to dole it out whenever possible; and there’s certainly no shortage of good advice online if you look hard enough.

    In fact, it seems there are new online experts popping up weekly lately and more good advice, good products, good tips & tricks on a daily basis by the end of 2006.

    And that got me thinking about a problem over the holidays…

    Not about WHO is giving the good advice; there are plenty of experts who know what they’re doing out there.

    The problem I see people encounter more often is NOT a lack of information, but an excess of information.

    There are so many experts spouting good plans and methods that your average person trying to make a living online becomes inundated with so many options they don’t know where to start. Or worse, they start too many projects and set themselves up for failure.

    My advice for 2007 is to understand that:

    There’s More Than One Path to the Top.

    There really isn’t ONE single way to do this right. Most experts have found a unique blend of techniques that worked for them and it’s your job to pick the techniques that will be easiest for you to implement, and leave the rest for other people (or at least for another time!)

    Once you’ve picked that ONE good technique, concentrate on it until you get it to work for your business and it starts producing measurable results.

    And only when you have perfected that technique, when you have polished it into a hands-free system that can work independently of you, should you even start thinking about the NEXT one.

    It will be significantly more profitable for your business to perfect one technique than to try out a dozen.

    Good luck in 2007.

    Wishing everyone a profitable year,
    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    Social Network Marketing

    At the dawn of the social network era, early adopters and forward thinking marketers were able to take advantage of opportunities that networks like Digg and Del.icio.us offered; they were new, they were cool, and they had rapid base of users just waiting for the next story to come along.

    Things are changing. Now every marketer thinks about how they can use these sites to their advantage, and the social network demographic has become increasingly savvy in dealing with overt marketing attempts.

    Gone are the pre-Internet days when people would simply turn the page, or change the channel if they didn’t like your advertisement. Online, the eyeballs you’re targeting are attached to fingers that have their own blogs who aren’t afraid to flame you.

    But love them or hate them, Social networks are making an evolution as a marketing vehicle.

    Not because they’re cool, and with a new social network opening daily, certainly not because the genre is unique, but because each new social network provides a doorway to a new, niche, target demographic. And every new community that sprouts online offers the savvy marketer a new channel to spread their message across.

    But a Word of Warning…

    Like people on the other side of any doorway you ever walk through, online communities that have grown up around your favorite social network are going to take offense if you barge in and start throwing your sales pitch around… And then the flaming begins.

    In a social environment, subtlety works much better.

    So, how do you start your subtle social network marketing program?

    This resource is an excellent place to start!

    Technorati’s Quarterly State of the Union Address

    Technoratis Quarterly State of the Union Address

    Attn: all Bloggers,

    David Sifry, Founder & CEO of Technorati, has released Technorati’s quartely state of the Blogosphere report

    Here are some of the main points of interest:

  • Technorati now tracks almost 58 Million blogs
  • Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size approximately every 230 days
  • About 100,000 new weblogs were created each day, again down slightly quarter-over-quarter but probably due in part to spam fighting efforts
  • There is a strong correlation between the aging and post frequency of blogs and their authority and Technorati ranking
  • Technorati tracks an average of 1.3 million Blog posts daily
  • About 4% of new splogs (garbage, Spam Blogs) get past Technorati’s filters, even if it is only for a few hours or days
  • Spam-, splog- and sping-fighting efforts at Technorati are paying dividends in terms of the reduction of garbage in our indexes, even if it does seem to impact overall growth rates. For instance, one quarter ago, Technorati reported that the number of new Blogs added daily to their index was actually 8%
  • The globalization of the blogosphere continues. Our data appears to show both English and Spanish languages are a more universal blog language than the other two most dominant language, Japanese and Chinese, which seem to be more regionally localized
  • Coincident with a rise in blog posts about escalating Middle East tensions throughout the summer and fall, Farsi has moved into the top 10 languages of the blogosphere, indicating that blogging continues to play a critical role in debates about the important issues of our times
  • Technoratis Quarterly State of the Union Address

    Google AdWords and Pop-ups

    A couple of months ago, we felt an uproar in the online community when Google changed the rules around AdWords usage and landing page guidlines. Dubbed the “Google Slap” by many online marketers, these recent changes have affected almost everybody who uses Adwords.

    Major changes revolve around two things:

    1. More pages on a website (site quality)
    2. No pop-ups on the landing page

    More pages on a website can be a problem if your site generally consists of a one-page sales letter, but fortunately there is a solution for Google’s “no pop-ups” rule.

    Ever since the “Google Slap” we have been receiving a flood of questions from people looking for a way to continue doing what they always done, without inciting the wrath of Google, so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you THERE IS A WAY!

    Here’s the big secret:

    Google’s “No Pop-up” rule doesn’t apply to to Strategic Pop-ups (sometimes called pop-overs).

    Part of the reason is Strategic Pop-ups are virtually undetectable and completely unblockable by pop-up blockers! Unlike traditional pop-ups that open in a new window, a Strategic Pop-up is part of the page itself; a DHTML layer that Slides Over your on-page content!

    You can also control important aspects of your strategic pop-up like where on the page it is going to appear, and whether it appears immediately, or on a time-delay (giving your site visitors an opportunity to read your major headline and message before appearing)

    From a conversion standpoint, Strategic 1ShoppingCart.com pop-ups have been a more effective tool than traditional pop-ups for 2 or 3 years and 1ShoppingCart has been offering this alternative since the beginning.

    But now, Google has made Strategic Pop-ups Essential for all AdWords users.

    Some AdWords users I’ve talked to recently saw their bid prices jump to 5 or even 10 dollars per click! All because they weren’t compliant with Google’s newest rules!

    Fortunately, simply changing from traditional pop-ups to 1ShoppingCart powered Strategic Pop-ups was enough in many cases to drop AdWords per click rates back down to a more resonable level. Unfortunately, if you are still having problems with high per click costs in your AdWords Campaign, you will need to call in the help of a seasoned professional!

    The man that many of the Internets Marketing Guru’s have been consulting with is AdWords Qualified Professional, Mark Widawer. Mark runs an AdWords management company and has recently launched his own ebook to help ‘the rest of us’ maximize our landing page profits using Google AdWords to drive the traffic!

    Mark’s incredible ebook will not only tell you how to reduce your AdWords costs, it also shows you how!

    And even better news for 1ShoppingCart.com, or any of our Private Label customers, Mark provides Step by Step Instructions on how to integrate Google Adwords with your 1ShoppingCart.com account!

    So be sure to check out his landing page by clicking here! (no, we are not getting anything for this click! No affiliate link at all! Just kudos to a great product!)

    Run Your Own Profitable Membership Site Today!

    1ShoppingCart has now launched a long awaited and highly anticipated integration with aMember’s leading membership and subscription management software.

    aMember provides a flexible user subscription management solution that will allow you to setup paid or password protected areas on your website. Our new integration will allow you to further automate the process by combining aMembers services with 1ShoppingCart’s comprehensive recurring billing module, and for only a one-time set-up fee!

    So… why is a membership module so important for your business?

    It’s almost the perfect business really, and definately the perfect addition to any existing business! Think about it:

    • No Extra Employees
    • No Inventory
    • Very Little Overhead
    • AND It can be run from anywhere in the world!

    Not convinced yet? Then think about this:

    • Ongoing, Recurring Income - Your members will pay you a subscription fee… Every Single Month!
    • Create the content once, and profit from membership fees forever!
    • The perfect companion for almost ANY site
    • Your incredible monthly income will increase EVERY month as more people join!

    1ShoppingCart.com has partnered with aMember to give you all this and more!

    Want some more good news:

    Because 1ShoppingCart is dedicated to helping you succeed, we’ve teamed up with one of the Internets leading authorities on membership sites so we can bring you, not just the tools to launch and run a successful subscription based site, but also with the tools that show you how to do it successfully!

    MembershipSiteOwner.com has generously provided us with a Membership Site Launch Guide report, that will help you get your new membership site up and running quickly and painlessly!

    This report provides step-by-step help to lead you through the process of setting up a profitable membership site.

    1ShoppingCart.com with aMember - Only $99 for the aMember plugin setup lets you quickly and easily integrate these two great systems to automate the billing process for your existing membership sites!

    If you have an account with both 1ShoppingCart and aMember, you can easily integrate these two services from within your 1ShoppingCart.com (or private label partner) account by clicking Your Account >> Renew/Upgrade from the main menu once you log in.

    If you are not already a member of 1ShoppingCart.com, you can get started with an eCommerce account and aMember quickly and easily by Clicking Here.

    1ShoppingCart.com Acquired by Website Pros

    Wow! Do I have some exciting news for you today…

    1ShoppingCart.com was acquired by publicly traded company, WebSite Pros.

    We had the opportunity to meet with some of WebSite Pros management team this morning, including President & CEO David Brown, and I was pleased to hear how closely the philosophies of the two companies overlap with both WebSite Pros and 1ShoppingCart focused on helping small and medium businesses succeed online by providing high-value services and solutions.

    While I’m sure the news will come as a surprise to many of you, I’m really excited at the opportunities this is going to provide for < our 11,000 existing merchants!

    So what does this mean for us, and of course for you, our merchants?

    Only Good Things!

    Once the hubbub dies down around here it’ll be business as usual, with no significant changes to our current team and certainly no major changes to the software you all know and love…

    What this DOES mean is that 1ShoppingCart will now have access to the skills, resources, experience and all the incredible services that WebSite Pros has to offer; things like web design and internet marketing services, SEO, and even lead generation solutions, all of which perfectly complement the eCommerce engine that 1ShoppingCart already provides.

    It means that 1ShoppingCart with WebSite Pros, is going to become the true one-stop resource for ALL your business needs online that we have been striving for over the past few years.

    This is an exciting day for all of us here and I hope we can share some of that excitement with you!

    If you would like to learn more about WebSite Pros, please take the time to visit their website: www.WebSitePros.com

    If you have any questions or concerns please let us know! You can leave a comment here on the blog; send an email to us at shoptalk.blog@1ShoppingCart.com or, as always, give our support staff a call!

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    aMember Coming to 1ShoppingCart.com!

    On Friday October 6th, 1ShoppingCart will be launching a long awaited and highly anticipated integration with aMember, a leading membership and subscription management company.

    aMember is a flexible user subscription management solution that will allow you to setup paid or password protected areas on your website. This integration will allow you to further automate the process by combining aMembers services with 1ShoppingCart’s comprehensive recurring billing module.

    So… why is a membership module so important for your business?

    It’s almost the perfect business really, and definately the perfect addition to any existing business! Think about it:

    Not convinced yet? Then think about this:

    1ShoppingCart.com has partnered with aMember to give you all this and more!

    Tomorrow’s the big launch date and we are going to have some juicy bonuses for any early adopters! So make sure you come back tomorrow and check it out!

    Till then,

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    7 Email Best Practices For Better Performance & Profit

    I thought I would share a condensed version of it here for anyone who isn’t a subscriber to our monthly newsletter. If you like this article, you should 1ShoppingCart.com/newsletter/Sep06/default.html" target=_blank>visit our current newsletter to read the full article!

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    1ShoppingCart.com/shopping-cart-autoresponders.asp" target=_blank>Email marketing is one of the most viable and affordable solutions to reach fresh prospects and customers and to generate new sales. Email as a medium and activity has actually overtaken web browsing for consuming time. However, challenges remain in getting recipients to get it, open it and read it.

    Using Email Best Practices you can create an increased response from your subscribers. If you use these best practices consistently then you’ll get more response, more inquiries, more seminar registrations, and more orders.

    There’s a handy list of Email Best Practices that should be common sense by now; yet many continue to fail, or just forget, to use them regularly. Let’s revisit some common sense now & look at some common Email Best Practices:

    1. Stay Away From Spam Filters
    2. Standardization for Higher Click-Thru Rates
    3. Personalization for Profit
    4. Confirm With Double Opt-In
    5. Unsubscribes Help Build Your List
    6. “I Don’t Like Mondays”
    7. Repeat What Works

    This partial list is just a starting point. There are more strategies and tactics for Email Best Practices that I look forward to sharing with you in the next issue of ShopTalk News.

    Increase Site Traffic With Blogs!

    I was getting ready to write a great article on how to use a Blog to increase your sites traffic…

    Then, as I was catching up on some of my blog reading (my wife had a baby last week, so I have been a little busy lately!) I found that someone else had already beaten me to the punch!

    Now, it really doesn’t surprise me that someone else wrote about increasing a blogs traffic… It’s was just kind of eerie to come across an article that was so close to the one in my head… It’s sort of like my own article, but without all the hard work!

    And so, instead of spending the time rewriting what has already been written, I have decided to pass on an abridgment of an article by Rand Fishkin that I read on SEOmoz.org.

    Rand is CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz.org, which provides companies around the world with consulting, Internet marketing and search engine optimization services from their home offices in Seattle, WA. SEOmoz provides great content in their daily SEO blog, and I definately recommend it to anyone who wants to read or learn more about SEO.

    And so without further adieu…

    21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic
    Posted by Rand on his SEO Blog, August 31, 2006.

    A considerable portion of my consulting time has recently revolved around the optimization of corporate blogs (or the addition of blogs to revamped sites). As usual, I find a pattern emerging in the strategies that need attention and the pitfalls that must be avoided.

    So, rather than charging an hourly rate to give advice on the subject, I thought it would be valuable to share many of the most common pieces of advice here on the blog (business part of Rand fights with open source Rand, but loses, as usual).

    1. Choose the Right Blog Software (or Custom Build)
    2. Host Your Blog Directly on Your Domain
    3. Write Title Tags with Two Audiences in Mind
    4. Participate at Related Forums & Blogs
    5. Tag Your Content
    6. Launch Without Comments (and Add Them Later)
    7. Don’t Jump on the Bandwagon
    8. Link Intelligently
    9. Invite Guest Bloggers
    10. Eschew Advertising (Until You’re Popular)
    11. Go Beyond Text in Your Posts
    12. Cover Topics that Need Attention
    13. Pay Attention to Your Analytics
    14. Use a Human Voice
    15. Archive Effectively
    16. Implement Smart URLs
    17. Reveal as Much as Possible
    18. Only One Post in Twenty Can Be Linkbait
    19. Make Effective Use of High Traffic Days
    20. Create Expectations and Fulfill Them
    21. Build a Brand

    My Thanks to Rand for writing yet another great article (and saving me the trouble )!

    You can read the full article here!

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    What’s With All The Funky Punctuation In This Email?!?!

    Are You Shooting Your Business in the Foot?

    When was the last time you received an email that contained something like:

    Sa^vings, Pro^fits or Sp@m

    Or perhaps:

    F.REE, FR33, Fr*e, or Fre^e

    When was the last time you sent out your own email with words like this to your list?

    I can see some of you are shaking your heads – “No! Not me!” – And yet I can tell you from my perch atop the mountain of Spam and legitimate email I receive every day, there are too many people in email marketing doing this.

    Why the Funky Punctuation?

    Simply put, it’s an outdated attempt to get around aggressive content filters. The idea was that Spam filters were starting to block any message that came through with certain ‘Trigger’ words. Desperate to get their email through, savvy marketers began to obfuscate, by any method possible, those trigger words.

    Unfortunately, as is usually the case with a good thing, it was only a matter of time (read – weeks – ) before equally savvy Spammers picked up on this method of fooling content filters and began pushing their snake oils using the same technique.

    D0.es it W0^rk Th0u*gh??

    No. Next question.

    Why Doesn’t it Work?

    There are a few reasons why, but let’s stick to the big ones:

    1. The Spam Filter Gurus get Spam too… and it was only a matter of time before they figured out how to see through this thinly disguised ploy to hide trigger words.
       
    2. Using Funky Punctuation makes your email look like Spam and that means it is just as likely to end up in a Junk folder as it is to end up in an Inbox!
       
    3. This is my favorite one so let me elaborate with a situation story:

      You’re a clever marketer. You’ve learned about Spam, Spam Filters, and Trigger words. You’ve transformed your email to obfuscate any words that even remotely look like they may be a trigger word. Congratulations.

      For this story, let’s say your email actually does make it through your recipients Spam filter and really does get opened.

      Sounds good so far doesn’t it? Maybe we should take up this Funky Punctuation thing after all!

      Hold on a second before you get all excited on me… let’s take this story forward just a little bit further…

      So your prospect/customer/mailing list signee, opens your email! Yay! Happy Days! What happens next? Sales? Money? Riches?

      No… What happens next is your email recipient is most likely to take one glance at your email and hit the Delete button as fast as she can.

      Why?!? Back to reason 3 for the answer…

      Warm-bodied people are the best Spam filters on the market, so getting your email past a content filter is no good if it still looks like Spam.

    Let’s assume for a minute that I’m an average eConsumer (has Apple branded iConsumer yet?). I’d never buy anything from anyone who uses Funky Punctuation in an email they send to me…

    Even if I DO read the email (which I probably won’t because I automatically assume you are Spamming me), you’ve insulted my intelligence and shot your credibility in the foot. After receiving an email that has something like “Lim*ited Time O^ffer…” I only have one question… If you can’t send me a proper, readable email, how bad is your product?

    Here’s a little anecdote for you…

    I do look at a lot of email every day, and there’s one particular marketer’s communication that always makes me chuckle. This marketer seems to think his name is enough to trigger a Spam Filter, so he always has Funky Punctuation breaking it up. Looks kind of like this:

    “Hi Everyone,

    It’s Mi^hael Valia*nt writing to let you know that… ”

    I would love to talk to him one day and ask WHY he thinks his name will get caught by a content filter. Maybe he sends out a lot of SPAM to his lists? Maybe he just thinks he is a really important guy online!

    “But What Can I Do to Beat the Content Filters of the World?”

    Here is a quick list for you…

    1. Stop Sending Spam!
       
    2. Write decent, informative, copy with a useful and compelling offer to run back to your shopping cart
       
    3. Don’t worry about using trigger words, just don’t OVERUSE them
       
    4. Don’t Send Spam!
       
    5. Understand that a certain percentage of every email you ever send will always end up in a Spam Filter or Junk email box somewhere in the world. No Exceptions.

    So, before you send out your next broadcast to your mailing list, pause for a second and remember that, while it may be your job to maximize your email deliverability chances, it’s just as important to maintain your messages readability and your credibility with your mailing list.

    To your continued online success!

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

     

    The Art of Link Baiting

    Part 1 of 2

    Do you have a blog or website but not enough traffic? Or perhaps you have traffic but are looking to expand your circle of influence?

    Maybe it’s time to go fishing.

    There’s a new term for an old practice called Link Baiting. Essentially it all revolves around the practice of giving people what they really want and attracting them to your site by using flashy movies or animations, outrageous comments or articles, really useful information or exposes, or possibly even some kind of unique web 2.0 type app.

    Think fishing for Web Surfers.

    Confused? Think about it this way… If you were to go fishing, in the traditional sense, once you mosey on down to your local river or pond how are you going to catch a fish? Assuming you stick to the standards of a fishing pole and hook…

    I’ll help you a little; to catch the biggest, baddest fish that may be swimming by, you are going to put the nicest juiciest bit of food on the end of your hook and toss it out into the water right?

    What you wouldn’t do is take YOUR favorite food (a jelly doughnut or strand of spaghetti perhaps), put it on your hook and hope to catch anything but boredom. Why? Because fish simply don’t eat doughnuts… sure, you may get one or two curious catfish take a little nibble just to see… but you aren’t going to catch anything worth keeping.

    Now, shift back to the online world… When coming up with content for your site, the same principles apply.

    It’s really important to find out what your prospective visitors actually WANT and give it to them. This is a powerful form of Link Bait.

    The term Link Bait itself means doing something that causes others to link to you voluntarily. And in order to convince people to give you that backlink, you need to offer them something of sustenance. Link Bait, fundamentally, is anything that will catch peoples attention, especially if it makes them want to share it with others.

    Ask any SEO what are the two most important things that will raise your page in the Search Engines, and they will invariably tell you:

    1) Backlinks
    2) Content

    The art of Link Baiting combines these two essential SEO necessities into one easy action! While you spend your time creating Link worthy Bait for your visitors, they’ll happily offer up backlinks to your content & if you have done your job really well, they will even send all their friends to check your site out.

    If you have spent any time trying to build your backlinks manually, you’ll have already seen the benefits of this solution. In most cases it is significantly easier to get 100 links by offering people what they want (or just something really cool!) than it is to seek out and ask (Nay! Beg!) hundreds of people for a linkback to your site!

    So what is link worthy?

    Here are the types of things you want to look for:

  • Offer data or insights that are not easily come by (do some decent Research and deliver answers!)
  • Write an expose on a popular topic
  • Offer something that no one else has
  • Be Creative!
  • Be Controversial (this works best with occasional usage)
  • Be FUN!
  • Want a little suggestion to jumpstart your Link Baiting career? Do some research into your favorite niche topic and think about what you’re really looking for… If you don’t find it, create it for your own site!

    Here’s some good news for you… the art of Link Baiting has become even easier in the past year thanks to the plethora of social networking sites that seem to be popping up all around the Internet lately. In part 2 of The Art of Link Baiting, I will go over some of these services and show you how they can help accelerate your Link Baiting career.

    System Update Announcement!

    1ShoppingCart.com Introduces Major Improvements to their Email System…

    1ShoppingCart.com has now launched a new and enhanced system to better meet all your email needs.

    From the ground up, our development team has re-engineered our entire mail process to improve user interaction, delivery speed and email deliverability and to more closely satisfy email best practices!

    Major Improvements include:

    In order to maintain the highest possible integrity of our email delivery system, and to ensure the best possible delivery rates for our merchants, we will now be manually confirming all Imported Client Lists. If there is a problem with your imported list, you will be informed by our Abuse Department.

    With major updates to our Autoresponder, Broadcast, Bounce Manager, Manage Clients, and Opt-In Preferences modules, this is the largest one-time update we have released in a long time and we hope you enjoy the enhanced functionality. As always, we welcome and appreciate your continued feedback to our Support Department! Your insightful comments help improve our solution to better serve your ever-changing needs.

    Do You Have A Secret Weapon For Your Business?

    Like most entrepreneurs, I have problems.

    Before you jump to any funny conclusions, I do not have a drinking habit . Actually, the problem I’m referring to is a desire to succeed; I work and play to win.

    Now, I can hear (I have very good ears!) at least half of you thinking, “Michael, you’re cracked… wanting to succeed is not a problem!” But I assure you it is… Or at least it can be. In fact, the very things that set you, as an entrepreneur or business owner, apart from ‘Joe Average’ can also be the things that prevent you from realizing your full potential.

    What really makes ‘wanting to be successful’ a problem for me, is that I like to do everything myself. Unfortunately, all that happens when you try to take on everything alone is you eventually spread yourself too thin.

    And no matter how hard you work, if you are running in too many directions, you’re never going to arrive where you want!

    Since we are on the topic of problems entrepreneurs and small business owners run into regularly, let’s talk about another I see all the time… (Nice segue huh? )

    It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, it’s simple human nature to always fall back into your own personal comfort zone. Years of consistent behavior will ingrain much of your daily actions and thought processes.

    And while it may be true this will help you become more efficient at the ‘things you always do’, relying on ‘things you always do’ is another problem that many entrepreneurs and small business owners run into.

    There is an Einstein quote I heard once that I like to share with people at this point (and yes, I am paraphrasing):

    If you always do, what you’ve always done…
    You’ll always get, what you’ve always got…

    It’s important to break away from your comfort zone on a regular basis and push yourself to do things a little differently, think of it as Testing & Tracking for your life. Sure, what you’ve always done may be working… but what if a small change worked a little bit better? Or a lot!

    Now, I’m not saying you should take over your cold-call sales department if you’re a shy, back-room planner, stick to your strengths, just don’t be afraid to try something new once in a while.

    But what do you try? And how?

    Essentially you will want to keep your eye open for the techniques other successful people and companies are using to improve their businesses and then look at your own business objectively to figure out a way to adapt those techniques to meet your own needs.

    This brings us to another problem I see regularly…

    It can be really difficult to be objective when it comes to looking at either yourself or your business; you’re simply too close to the flame to see the light. And if you can’t objectively look at and run your business, you will never be able to properly find your role in it. And this will result in you always finding yourself doing tasks that should be left to others.

    So what do you do if you find yourself being self-victimized with any of these problems?

    Reading the next flash-in-the-pan Marketing eBook isn’t going to help, at least not for long. It may be time for you to find a Business Coach / Mentor.

    A Mentor / Business Coach will provide an objective voice when discussing your business. They will encourage you to step out of your self-created comfort zone, examine new possibilities that you may or may not have thought about previously, enhance and build your leadership capabilities, and set higher expectations while helping to keep you accountable to someone.

    A good Mentor / Business Coach will even help you plan and grow your business.

    A recent study by the Personnel Management Association indicated that training alone (like reading another eBook) increases productivity by an average of 22.4%, while training plus coaching / mentoring increases productivity by an incredible 88%.

    In fact, this is a lesson I already have 1ShoppingCart.com to thank for. Rob Bell, CEO / President of 1ShoppingCart.com, recognized the need for objective feedback years ago and this attitude has permeated through all of us here; if you don’t have all the answers, go and find the people that do.

    Don’t think a Mentor / Business Coach can help you?

    The Mentors / Business Coach’s that we work with at 1ShoppingCart provide valuable strategizing services and an angle on everything that is difficult to reach when you are caught up in the daily grind of getting the actual work done.

    If you want a preview of everything a good Mentor can bring to your business, I strongly recommend downloading a FREE 30-page booklet that has recently been offered by Rich Schefren; the Internet Business Manifesto.

    Rich has been working with Rob Bell and 1ShoppingCart for years, and his insights have been invaluable. He’s also worked with a ‘who’s-who’ list of Internet Marketing Gurus and multi-million dollar Internet businesses. In fact, Rich is one of the world’s most sought after Internet business coaches!

    I’m only mentioning all that to try and illustrate how incredible this 30 page Manifesto really is… Rich has filled the pages with the same strategies that he teaches in his elite coaching program.

    I browse through a lot of marketing material here at 1ShoppingCart and this is the first thing in a long time that has made me stop, sit down and actually read it, WORD FOR WORD.

    When I was done I sat for a long time, thinking about what Rich has shared in this incredible document… then I read it a second time.

    This report isn’t just full of marketing secrets, but also essential, ground floor business and marketing principles!

    Honestly I can’t believe that he is giving this away for free, most marketers charge a lot of money for a lot less, and I highly recommend that you go and download it right away!

    Maybe it will convince you to go and find a Mentor of your own, maybe not, but I guarantee you will learn a few things in the process!

    Wishing you success!

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    Give them what they want…

    Today’s tip is all about conversions and tapping into the public’s unconscious mind.

    As we all know, continuous tweaking and testing of your eCommerce website is one of the best ways to improve:

    • Search Engine Rankings
    • Visitor experience
    • Visitor Conversions
    • And of course, Sales

    We are fortunate to receive a lot of traffic on a day to day basis here at 1ShoppingCart.com and that gives us a very unique opportunity to do a lot of testing and see the results very quickly.

    And what good is all of that knowledge if we don’t pass some of it along right?!

    Exactly.

    Which brings me to this weeks tip:

    While getting fancy may help your site look good, it may just kill your online business.

    Time and again, we have tested plain-vanilla pages against one smooth new template or another, and almost always, the plain page will out-perform.

    Not only that, but your visitors and customers have been trained to see web-pages in a very specific way; and if you stray too far from what they are expecting to see when they view your site, you may just loose them!

    Here’s an example:

    Recently, we ran a series of tests to track clicks and conversions on Text-Based links. The idea was to see the effects of changing the traditionally expected ‘blue-text-with-a-blue-underline’ text link.

    Here’s what we found:

    Resist the urge!

    Even though technology today allows us to do any number of fancy things with text links, the people that visit your site (and keep you in business) are still clicking on the ‘blue-text-with-a-blue-underline’ text links 60% more often than anything else we tried.

    What does this mean?

    Do people particularly like the plain old ‘blue-text-with-a-blue-underline’ text link? I doubt it. Really, it just means that people have been trained to see text links in a specific way. A million websites that came before yours have trained the average websurfer to look for a links in a specific format.

    So instead of fighting it, go with it. If people are looking for one thing, give it to them… Your bottom line will thank you.

    Even Google is not immune to this!

    Here is another example of this force at work:

    Google changed the name of their online maps to Google Local a few months back. Did anyone notice the change? Apparently Google did, because last week they changed back to Google Maps.

    Google was trying to ride the ‘local-search’ wave, but the average person was just looking for maps. So after hyping Google Local, and throwing advertising dollars at the change, Google had to finally revert back to their original name, because that is what they had already trained people to expect!

    Moral of this story…

    A fancy website design may earn you bragging rights, but tapping into the public’s psyche and understanding what it is they are expecting to see will increase your revenues.

    Wishing you eBusiness success,

    Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com

    1ShoppingCart Develops New Mail Server!

    Thank you for your continued patience during our ongoing issues with Spamhaus. We have all endured a great deal of frustration over our SBL listing by SpamHaus but we are happy to say that we have finally reached an agreement and can now move forward.

    As always, 1ShoppingCart is committed to best practices and compliance with all email regulations and industry standards with respect to spam policies and best mailing practices. In the past, we have worked closely with major ISP’s to ensure all mail being sent from our system was white-listed, giving it the best possible chances of delivery.

    Unfortunately, recent events with respect to individual Merchants on our system using questionable email practices, have led to consequences with 3rd party ‘watchdogs’ covering spam activity.

    In response to these problems, 1ShoppingCart has created a secondary mail delivery system for all merchants who wish to adhere to industry recommended ‘best practices’. This decision was made to find a solution for our merchants who do adhere to proper email practices and ensure their email is not being blocked because of the actions of a few.

    Best practice in the eyes of all ISP’s and Industry watchdogs state that Close-Loop Confirmation is the only way to verify that someone has requested to be on your mailing list. To view Spamhaus definition Click Here.

    As part of our NEW mail delivery system, the following changes are effective immediately (May 15, 2006) and no exceptions will be made.

    Any new clients added to your account, either manually with the add client function or via an imported list, will be subject to our closed-loop confirmation system (opt-in verified).

    If you are unfamiliar with a closed-loop confirmation system, the first email your clients receive will request verification by clicking a link in the message. As soon as your clients verify their identity and signal that they wish to be included, they will be eligible to receive other email from your account. We have made it very easy for you to customize this close-loop confirmation message so that your prospects will know the message is from you.

    CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO USER GUIDE

    The benefit of this system for you is priceless. By stringently verifying every client who enters your list, you are guaranteed a more interested and more targeted list; and we are doing everything we can to ensure one ‘bad-apple’ does not cause problems for everyone else using our services.

    We would like to apologize to all of our merchants who experienced any mail delivery problems over the past two weeks and want you to know that we remain committed in providing superior service and continue to be proactive in attempting to prevent any negative activity by individuals that may affect the integrity and smooth operation of the entire community.

    Our new system will ensure that all mail to your Customers, Affiliates, Closed-Loop Confirmed prospects and all Close-Loop confirmation messages will be delivered through our NEW White-Listed IP’s. These changes will begin early this afternoon.

    Over the next few days we will be adding new tools that will enable you to move those existing prospects who were never subject to our original verified-opt-in process, over to our new mail delivery system in an easy and painless process. Any prospects in your lists who have previously verified their interest will automatically be moved to our new delivery system.

    For right now we will still be allowing the ability to bypass the Close-Loop Confirmation process for any web-form submissions, but in order for your mail to be sent via our new delivery system and to ensure deliverability to any ISP protected by SpamHaus or other email watchdogs, we strongly encourage turning this feature on. You can do this from the Custom Forms >> Opt-in Preferences page within your account.

    If you choose NOT to use the Close-Loop Confirm process on your web-forms your email will be delivered only on the current Spamhaus listed IP’s and can not be delivered to any of the ISP’s that utilize Spamhaus services.

    It’s my own opinion that it is only matter of time before all Email Service Providers will be forced into the same situation we have been. The Closed-Loop Confirm process will be a blessing for all those that embrace it. As a service provider it will allow us to make sure that 100% of your email is delivered.

    Thank you for your patience and continued support.

    For anyone interested in learning more about Spam problems, or best email practices, we have included several resources:

    SpamHaus.org
    Crynwr.com
    Google Search
    Wikipedia
    Mail-Abuse.com

    Rob Bell
    President and CEO
    1ShoppingCart.com

    Interview with Cliff Van Kempen

    Cliff Van Kempen has been with 1ShoppingCart for a number of years in various roles, most recently as Quality of Service Manager.

    In this role he has developed relationships with major ISP’s to ensure our high mail deliverability, has been instrumental in developing our NEW Mailing System, and is instrumental in keeping our technology at the forefront of our industry.

    I pulled Cliff away from his desk recently to ask him a few questions:

    MV = Michael Valiant, 1ShoppingCart.com
    CVK = Cliff Van Kempen

    MV – Can you tell us a little about your current position with 1ShoppingCart and what it means for our merchants?

    CVK – As ‘Quality of Service Manager’, I have endeavored to ensure the continued quality of the services we offer. It is my responsibility to ensure that our mail flows effectively to the leading mail systems and that our features are always updated with the most current technologies and Internet marketing strategies in mind.

    I am also personally responsible for all releases of bug fixes, and features to our production system. Once our QA department has tested any updates, I make sure they are deployed.

    MV – Anything else you wanted to mention about your position?

    CVK – I also work closely with our Private Label Partner network, and now review all possible joint ventures or partnerships.

    MV – Can you talk a little about our New Mail System?

    CVK – Sure, basically we have been working closely with SpamHaus and some other 3rd party Spam-policing agencies to develop a Closed-Loop Confirmation, or Opt-In Verified mail delivery system.

    MV – Why SpamHaus?

    CVK – Well, we already have working relationships with most of the major ISP’s Online, but many of the smaller ISP’s use services like SpamHaus to filter their incoming mail for them. So it is easier and much more efficient for us to go directly to the source and work with organizations like SpamHaus to ensure email deliverability.

    MV – What type of changes are involved with the new system?

    CVK – The big difference is that, if you want your mail delivered via our confirmed-delivery IP addresses, you will have to ensure your list goes through the Closed-Loop Confirmation process. To protect our service, and ensure that there are no disruptions to the flow of our mail, we are ensuring that all contacts entered into our new system are confirmed subscribers.

    MV – So moving forward, all new merchants will be subject to this new process?

    CVK – That’s right… and in the same way that new merchants will be subject to the new rules, existing merchants who are adding new clients to their accounts will be too.

    MV – What about our merchants existing clients?

    CVK – Well, it is all dependant on how those clients ended up in the database originally. Most of our merchants have always followed industry recommended best practices with their email lists and most of their clients have verified their wish to receive email through our old Double Opt-in process. These verified clients will be grandfathered into the new mailing system.

    Any client who, for one reason or another, never verified their email address through the opt-in process, will continue to receive mail from our existing service.

    This of course excludes customers, as they have already established a provable business relationship and will receive mail via the new system.

    MV – So some of our merchants may potentially have some clients receiving email from our old system and others that are receiving email through our new one?

    CVK – Correct, and over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will be releasing several tools our merchants can use to see which system their clients are on, and other tools they can use to move everybody over to the new mailing system!

    MV – And they definitely are going to want to do that?

    CVK – Absolutely! We have developed our new mailing system to try and ensure some of the highest delivery rates in the industry.

    MV – Are there going to be any exceptions to the new Closed-Loop Verification, or Confirmation process?

    CVK – Yes and no. No there will be no exceptions made where the process is now mandatory. That being said, the Closed-Loop Verification process will continue to be optional for web-form submissions for the time being; this will be the only exception in our system.

    All new merchants who join will have their web-forms automatically set to require opt-in verification, however, we strongly suggest that all our merchants adopt these best practices. As a subscriber to newsletters from many major companies world wide, it is rare to find any major corporation that does not use this confirmation process anymore.

    MV – I see, but how are those clients treated? I mean, which system will clients who join via a web-form be sent mail from?

    CVK – If you choose to bypass the Closed-Loop Confirmation process for your web-forms, the clients who join your list in this way will receive all of your email from our old system. Only Merchants who choose to use the Closed-Loop Confirmation system for their lists will be eligible for the new mailing system.

    MV – I suppose that helps keep the new system clean from Spammers?

    CVK – Absolutely! That’s exactly right. Our new system has been designed to prevent a couple of people from ruining the deliverability rate of the entire community.

    1ShoppingCart Security & Privacy Now CERTIFIED by Visa

    If your online business, or any of the service providers you use for collecting credit card data, does not meet new criteria and standards as set out by Visa and MasterCard, you may find that you’ve lost your ability to do business online.

    Every single company that participates in the credit card processing chain over the Internet, in any way, must be compliant with strict security standards established by the major credit card industry players. These standards are called the Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS).

    1ShoppingCart.com and our network of Private Labels are pleased to announce that we now provide you with a completely PCI certified and CISP compliant shopping cart software system from start to finish. Rob Bell, CEO of 1ShoppingCart says, “Our popular shopping cart solution was created with your security in mind. We’ve always worked to provide the most secure shopping experience possible. Now our hard work has paid off for all our online merchants. The best news is that we have implemented it in such a way that means our merchants won’t have to do a single thing because the 1ShoppingCart eCommerce Solution handles all the CISP/PCI requirements.”

    All current clients immediately benefit from 1ShoppingCart’s shopping cart software and eCommerce solution because your subscription to the service means you automatically conform to the credit card industries stringent security rules. Bell adds, “Our safe and secure system has now not only been validated through this process, but has certified us for both PCI and CISP.”

    These privacy and security measures are the result of a partnership between Visa and MasterCard and have been endorsed by every major credit card provider operating in the U.S. They were created to define best practices when processing, transmitting and storing credit card information.

    The new Visa/MasterCard standards place the responsibility of ensuring whether everyone in the credit card handling chain is compliant, or not, in the hands of the Merchant Banks (Merchant Accounts). If any of the service providers who do deal with the handling of credit cards are not certified soon, the merchant banks will begin taking action against them. Failure to comply may result in substantial financial penalties and may even prevent you from accepting further credit cards online!

    Unlike most eCommerce providers online, 1ShoppingCart has taken care of all security details regarding CISP/PCI and their clients won’t have to take any action to become compliant themselves! By using 1ShoppingCart.com’s shopping cart software for your business transactions, there is nothing for you to worry about regarding system security or industry compliance issues.

    1ShoppingCart.com Corporation is the web’s leading provider of shopping cart, internet marketing and eCommerce solutions and has been committed to helping make internet marketing and sales easier since 1999.



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