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SEO can be broken into two distinct areas – “onpage” factors and “off-page” factors. On-page factors include anything that you can affect on the page itself, such as the title tag, body copy, H1 heading tags, image “alt” attributes, etc.

Off-page factors encompass things that influence rankings but are not on the page itself, such as PageRank score and anchor text, better known by the layman as link text. When you are optimizing the on-page factors, you start with keyword research to identify the keyword markets that you should go after (as discussed in my “Keyword Sleuthing” article in the November issue). You craft prose targeted at those keyword markets (see my “Writing for the Search Engines” article in the December issue).

Keyword-rich prose isn’t enough though. In order to give your content its best shot at ‘singing’ to the search engines, you’ll need to optimize your HTML templates. Of course this all presumes that your ecommerce platform is friendly to search engine spiders (my “Avoid Complex URLs” article in last month’s issue). Here’s a quick guide on how to optimize your HTML, step-by-step:

Make sure each page can sing a unique song

The worst kinds of HTML templates have title tags and Meta data (such as the meta description) hard-coded so that they are the same across all pages that use that template. Make sure that your title tag, Meta description and H1 heading tag can be assigned on a per page basis, thus unique to the specific page in question.

Strip out extraneous HTML code

Superfluous code in your HTML negatively impacts your search engine rankings by pushing your good keyword rich copy further down the page thus lowering keyword prominence. Because the search engine spider looks at the HTML code rather than the rendered page as you see it in your web browser, elements in the HTML code that bloat the page up may lower your page’s keyword prominence. In addition, this “bloat” will negatively impact the user experience as it increases download time. As you know, Internet users are notoriously impatient.

Superfluous HTML includes HTML comments, JavaScript code that is “inline”, cascading style sheets (CSS) that are “inline,” and table tags used for layout. Not only are tables inefficient for layout; they also offer poor accessibility because “screen readers” (software used by visually impaired users to read each web page aloud) will read out all that table information to the user as if it were a tabular data such as a chart. So strip out all the comments, move the JavaScript’s and style sheets into separate “include” files (in the case of JavaScript, a .js file and with style sheets it is a .css file). So in effect you replace a many-line JavaScript or cascading style sheet with a oneline reference to an external file containing all that code.

Amplify the song that your content sings

Your content, when merged in with your HTML template, is what is served to the search engine spider. Your HTML template can squelch that song or it can amplify it. Above, we have already talked about ways that your HTML code can squelch the song. Now in order to amplify it, make sure that you include heading tags on your pages and utilize text navigation whenever possible instead of graphical navigation. For example, clickable buttons can be done as text but made to look graphical. Text links are much more effective than graphical links because the search engines take the anchor text that you have used and associate the words in the anchor text with the page that you are linking to. You will get a lift in your rankings for the keywords contained within those text links.

Not to worry

The Meta keywords tag doesn’t have much of a place nowadays in SEO, so you can safely leave them out of your HTML templates (unless your own site’s search engine uses them). A Meta robots tag with instructions to index and follow is unnecessary, as that is assumed, so leave that out as well. Image “alt” attributes used to be a lot more important than they are now. It seems nowadays that only when the image is also a link that the “alt” attribute is actually paid any attention to by the search engine. Taking all the above into account, you should end up with HTML templates that really enhance your search engine positions across all pages to which they are applied.

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What’s a page rank and how does it work?

PageRank is Google’s system to rank the relative popularity of a website. Developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, the PageRank system uses the Internet’s vast linking structure to measure an individual web page. A link from one site to another is interpreted as a “vote” for the destination site. Google also examines the pages themselves to determine the importance of each, meaning that a link or “vote” from a page within itself is a high PageRank (considered “important”) will weigh more heavily than a link from a less “important” page.

The PageRank scale is between 1 and 10, and is a logrhythmic scale, much like the Richter scale used to rate earthquakes. This means that the gap between a PageRank of 3 and 4 is tiny when compared to the gap between a PageRank of 7 and 8. Generally, a PageRank of 5 is considered average, whereas achieving a PageRank of 7 indicates a popular site.

You can check the PageRank for your site by going to There are also PageRank predictors, such as, that claim to predict what your site’s future PageRank will be. While these are good indicators, they are not a guarantee of what your PageRank will be the next time Google updates.

How does an SSL certificate make transactions secure?

In order to conduct transactions on the Internet, sensitive information such as credit card data must be sent securely between the user’s web browser and the server hosting the website they are trying to purchase from. This is accomplished using an SSL (“Secure Sockets Layer”) certificate. When a web browser tries to access a secure web page, the server first sends what is called a “public key” to the browser along with the SSL certificate. Using this public key, the browser then generates a “private key”, or an encryption key, which is sent back to the server with the secure URL that the browser would like to access. The server then uses this encryption key to securely encrypt all data that is subsequently sent to the browser. Because this key is generated on the fly by the browser, the encryption method is unique between each browser and the server, ensuring that only one key can encrypt the data, and only one key can decrypt the data.

This ensures that all information that is sent to the server is secured, and your customers can rest easy knowing that their personal information is safe. Most SSL certificates use 128-bit encryption keys, although more recently 256-bit encryption has become available.

How does Alexa determine traffic ratings?

Many people use Alexa to determine their websites’ traffic rankings, the reach of the website, and other information about the popularity of their web presence. But how is this determined? It’s mainly delivered via the Alexa toolbar, a downloadable browser toolbar that has been built into Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The toolbar delivers information to Alexa about what websites people are visiting. Using this method, Alexa receives data from a defined sample population of Internet users. This data is then processed to deliver a Traffic Ranking and a Daily Reach coefficient. The Traffic Ranking measures how much traffic a site receives relative to all other websites, and is delivered as a 3-month average. The Daily Reach is determined by how many people in the Alexa sample population visit a site, and is normalized to a sample size of 1 million. In this way, a Daily Reach of 4,000 means that your site probably was viewed by 4,000 out of every 1 million Internet users.

The Alexa toolbar is only available for the Windows operating system using either Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers. The toolbar is currently not available for Firefox users, although Alexa provides the option of building your own toolbar. If your site is targeted specifically at Firefox users, or Mac users, or Linux users, odds are that the data about your site in Alexa is inaccurate, due to the fact that your visitor base is excluded from Alexa’s sample population.

How can I tell if a search engine is finding content within my site?

There are a couple of ways to determine if Google, as well as other search engines, can access the content in your site that you want it to find. The first is to find a string of text on your website that will be unique, or at least relatively rare. Copy this string of text into the search box of your favorite search engine, making sure to enclose the entire search string in quotation marks. This tells the search engine to find that specific string of text. Check the results that are returned and if your site appears, the search spiders are successfully indexing your content.

A much easier, and more informative, approach is to ask the search engine what content it has found for a particular domain. To do this, you simply enter “” into the search field of your favorite search engine. This will return every page that the search engine has indexed under that domain. This is a sure fire way of determining how effectively the spiders are getting through your website. If you don’t see content or web pages that you believe should be there, perhaps the search engine spiders are unable to access your site properly. Check with your web developer as there are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case.

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Short-term holiday pop-up shops can boost sales, help test a new channel, reduce Christmas inventory, and even help online brands grow.

The pop-up retail trend is not particularly new. In the U.S., shopping malls have been adding holiday kiosks for years and many communities have Halloween or Christmas pop-up stores each year. But it is starting to catch on with more online retailers.

Ecommerce stores that have had success selling online and want to grow may consider opening a temporary, physical retail location to serve customers and increase sales. If your online business is thinking of capturing offline sales this holiday season, consider these four tips for starting your own pop-up shop

1. Have Clear Goals

Like any business venture or project, you should have clear, reasonable, and measurable goals for your pop-up shop. It may sound cliché to tell you to have goals as part of a list of tips, but this is the step from which everything else flows.

If your aim is to generate an extra $10,000 in holiday revenue, you presumably won’t want to pay $10,000 in rent. So your goal will inform your choice of location. Similarly, if you want to test the brick-and-mortar channel, you might choose to pick a vacant storefront in the neighborhood you are considering to learn how sales might be. Again, your goal informs your choice.

2. Get Loads of Foot Traffic

Pop-up shops must be in high traffic areas.

Some brick-and-mortar stores can be destinations. Shoppers may go out of their way to reach a specialty shop, especially an established one. But your brand new, here-today-gone-tomorrow pop-up retail location is unlikely to be a destination store. Rather you need to capitalize on foot traffic that is already in the area.

To get loads of foot traffic, you have several options.

Consider, as an example, finding space within another retailer’s store. Some big box chains have retail space available at the front of their stores where hundreds of customers walk by.

You may also be able to find a specialty retailer in your target city or neighborhood that will rent you space. For these sorts of arrangements, look for stores that sell products which complement yours, but don’t compete.

You can simply rent vacant retail space in high traffic areas. This may be an open spot in a shopping center or on the street corner. One retailer in the Northwest, as an example, puts up a large 20-by-20 tent in a gas station’s lot on a busy street corner with tons of foot traffic. Its store stays open for two weeks and generates about $200,000 in revenue.

Storefront, a pop-up locator service, helps you locate space for your pop-up shop.

To help find good locations like this one, you can simply look around, search commercial real estate sites, or use a pop-up shop service like Storefront, which lists many prime pop-up locations.

3. Focus on Easy, Impulse Items

For your pop-up shop, focus on products at easy-to-afford price points that encourage impulse buying. Your pop-up shop customers probably just wandered by. They were not looking for you. So you need to convert on the spot.

In 2013, Psychology Today magazine suggested five reasons that folks purchase on impulse. These motivators were a desire to save money, avoiding loss, what the magazine called “twisted heuristics,” a high opinion of ourselves, and a simple love of shopping.

Of these, focus on three as you pick the products to feature in your pop-up shop and how to set your prices and offers.

  • Money saving. Shoppers like to save money during the holidays. So present your pop-up shop customers with good values on gift items. Make these products that are easy to walk away with.
  • Loss aversion. Describes our innate desire not to feel bad in the future, according toPsychology Today. In the context of your pop-up store, aim for items or offers that your customers will be afraid to miss.
  • Twisted heuristics. Without going into the psychological details, consider bundling products to encourage impulse buys, such as buy one get one free.

As a final consideration for stocking your pop-up shop, consider items that are easy to carry away.

4. Merchandise Your Store

Retail merchandising is an art and a science that goes well beyond making things look pretty or even just presentable. How you display products in a physical store will have a significant impact on how things sell.

For example, one retail chain has found placing on-sale clothing items — think jeans — in stacks on tables can almost double sales versus putting the same clothing at the same price on rounders (round clothing racks).

Consider visiting several retail stores in your area, particularly ones that sell similar products to what you will have in your pop-up store. Take note of how they display items. If you can, take pictures.

You are going to need to experiment a bit, but always test your visual displays with data. Watch items to see how moving them around the pop-up store impacts sales.

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The military has used drones for years, for a variety of missions. Now ecommerce retailers are evaluating their use.

Consumer research firm eDigitalResearch conducted a survey that found that 33 percent of online shoppers are open to using drones to speed up the delivery of their orders. Another study conducted by Walker Sands Communications reported that 66 percent of the surveyed American consumers think that online merchants will use drones for delivery within the next five years.

Consumers are apparently keen to utilize this technology, in other words. Amazon’s announcement in 2014 of a potential drone-based delivery service called Amazon Prime Air has led other retailers to consider drones.


While the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is evaluating the use of drones and the regulations related to them, there are challenges retailers need to overcome before drone-based order delivery becomes a reality.

In this article, I’ll list eight of them.

8 Obstacles to Drone Delivery

1. Order staging. Before orders are shipped, they are typically assembled in a staging or docking area in a warehouse to be loaded into trucks. With drones, this docking process will need to be redesigned and may require changes to how products are picked for an order. This is not a small change, as existing processes will have to be redesigned for supporting drones and employees will need to be trained on these new processes to make drone delivery successful.

2. Weight limit. Since drones can presumably only support orders below a certain weight, the retailer may have to split the order into multiple shipments. This will increase the delivery costs and will need to be somehow offset or passed down to the consumer.

3. Drop ship vendors. Many retailers use drop ship vendors. These vendors will have to invest in drones to support faster delivery, to remain competitive, or retailers will have to look for other options.

4. Distance limit. Drones can travel only a certain distance. This may require retailers to load the drones, along with the ordered products, in delivery trucks and use drones for delivery only when they are within a defined radius for customer deliveries.

5. Requires investment. Introducing drones as part of the delivery process requires investment. But this investment will be a bigger strain on smaller retailers — or use third party services that utilize drones.

6. Shipping big-ticket items. Drones fly a few hundred feet from the ground and could become targets of thieves who want to steal merchandise. Retailers will have to consider this before using drones to ship big-ticket items. Retailer shrinkage could increase significantly after introducing drones.

7. Weather restrictions. A customer who signs up for faster delivery using drones will need his orders to be delivered regardless of the weather. Drones are not ideal for inclement weather, such as snow, hail, rain, and high winds, which could delay delivery to the customer.

8. Uninterrupted service. Drones are machinery that can fail. When that occurs, retailers will presumably have to send another drone to deliver an order. They will also have to determine how to collect the broken drone or write it off as loss.

In short, drone technology sounds exciting. But the reality of putting it into use is not straightforward. While the F.A.A. considers regulations on the use of drones, retailers can ponder and plan their strategy.

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Google Sheets can monitor competitors’ prices, capture news headlines, and devour data from websites, CSV files, and more. The tool helps small business owners and marketers gain a competitive advantage.

Google Sheets, the search giant’s cloud-based spreadsheet service, does more than just make your financial statements legible. The service has many powerful functions and features. Three of these may even help your business collect competitor and industry data that could lead to better decisions.


The first, and most powerful, of the Google Sheets functions I will discuss is IMPORTXML.

Although its name implies that it is for importing extensible markup language (XML) documents, this Sheets feature can be used to ingest several forms of structured data, including XML, hypertext markup language (HTML), comma-separated value (CSV) files, tab-separated value (TSV) files, and RSS feeds.

As an example, imagine that you compete with a popular retailer like Zumiez. Although you don’t offer everything that Zumiez carries, you do have the same particular brand of women’s twill jogger pants.

Google Sheets IMPORTXML function can be used to capture price data from a competitor's product detail pages.

You want to make certain that your price is competitive, so you create a new Google Sheet to track Zumiez. After you have created a title section, perhaps “Zumiez Women’s Pants to Track,” and a few column headers like “Product Name,” “Product Price,” and “URL,” you are ready to start tracking Zumiez’s prices.

You can place the data that IMPORTXML retrieves almost anywhere in a sheet, including below some meaningful headers.

The IMPORTXML function takes two parameters. First it requires the URL for the resource you want to parse for your data. Next it wants an xpath query.

The IMPORTXML function requires two parameters.

To apply this function, click into a Google Sheets field. First type an equals sign and then the function name, IMPORTXML.


Functions in Google Sheets use parentheses to surround parameters.


Next, add the target URL inside of the parentheses. This URL is treated like a quote. In this example, the URL goes directly to the first of the target product detail pages.


Finally, you will need to use xpath to identify just the element that you want Google Sheets to capture.

=IMPORTEXML( “http://...”, “//h1[contains(@itemprop, 'name')]” )

When you hit enter on your keyboard, Google Sheets will pull in the product name from the Zumiez product detail page.

Do the same thing for the price, and you are starting to automatically track Zumiez. In terms of structure, that is all there is to it.

For some, however, the xpath query might not be self-explanatory. Xpath (the XML path language) is a querying language used to select particular nodes within structured data.

The first part of the xpath — with the two slashes, “//” — tells Sheets to search through the document from the top down, if you will, until it finds a node similar to what we describe next.

In the example, the next description or node is “h1.” It tells Sheets to look for a heading one tag.

Finally, we don’t want just any h1 tag. We want one that contains an attribute called “itemprop,” where that attribute is equal to “name.”

//h1[contains(@itemprop, 'name')]

Finding the proper xpath can take some practice and experience with HTML. One of the easiest ways to find the xpath is to use the developer tools that are built into your web browser. In Google Chrome, as an example, right or alternate click on the product name and select “Inspect Element.”

The developer tools in Google Chrome can be helpful for defining an xpath.

Chrome’s developer tools will open, showing you the element (node) you are focused on.

Repeat this process for each product that you want to monitor.


The IMPORTFEED function in Google Sheets is designed to parse an RSS or ATOM feed. The function has one required parameter — the URL for the feed you want to ingest — and three optional parameters.

The IMPORTFEED function only has one required parameter, but option ones help you zero in on the data you want.

Imagine, for example, that you wanted to bring in the entire Practical Ecommerce article feed. You would click into a Google Sheets field and type the following command.


When you clicked enter, Google Sheets would bring in all of the articles in the feed.

Google Sheets can act like an RSS reader, gathering all of the articles from a feed.

The second parameter, which is optional, can be used to get a feed description, a feed attribute, or even a particular node from the feed. In this example, Google Sheets will return only the article titles.

=IMPORTFEED("", "items title")

The third parameter can be used to include column headers. Simply, add “true.” Note here that the second parameter is set to an empty string, which is the default.

=IMPORTFEED("", "", "true")

The fourth parameter will limit the number of items to return. So if you only want the last five articles, your function would look like this.

=IMPORTFEED("", "", "true", 5)


The Google Sheets IMPORTDATA function will pull in information from a CSV or TSV file. This can be helpful for absorbing data from web tools or government services.

The Sheets IMPORTDATA function has just one required parameter.

To use an example directly from the Google Sheets documentation, if you wanted to look at the U.S. 2010 census, you could pull it into a Sheet just like this.


Pulling in data from a CSV or TSV file is easy with IMPORTDATA.

Summing Up

Google Sheets has some powerful tricks that will help small business owners collect actionable data. The best on this list, for me, is IMPORTXML and its ability to track competitor prices.

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Conferences and industry events, such as Practical Ecommerce’s upcoming Ignite 2015, are not only opportunities to learn from the experts, but also ideal places to network with peers. Loading your mobile device with the right apps will help to ensure you get the most out of your new connections.

Here is a list of mobile apps to enhance your networking at events. There are apps to exchange contact information, schedule meetings and lunches, take notes, discover who you need to meet, and even to help remember someone’s name. Most of these apps are free.

Apps for Networking Events

Intro. Intro is an app to send your page as a digital business card. You control the information you want to share. Keep track of the people you’ve shared your card with, and cards you’ve received. Contact people directly through the app, or save the info into your address book. Price: Free.

Intro App.

CamCard. Use CamCard to capture all your business cards and manage your contact info. Exchange e-cards, manage your cards by adding notes and tagging, access your cards anywhere. Batch scan all your paper cards to cut the card clutter. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $5 per month.

CamCard App.

Namerick. If you’re bad with names, this is an app for you. Namerick improves your memory of people’s names using repetition and mnemonics modeled from memory “athletes” and studies of the human memory. Price: $0.99.

Namerick App.

Evernote. Evernote is an app to capture information on the go. Easily gather everything important. Capture handwritten notes, and snap photos to record physical and digital details. Collaborate on ideas, and easily create presentations. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $24.99 per year.

Evernote App.

CityHour. CityHour helps you arrange face-to-face meetings with nearby professionals, or around other commonalities such as industry or shared objectives. CityHour syncs with your LinkedIn profile to locate contacts both in and out of your current network that are open to scheduling in-person meetings. Price: Free.

CityHour App.

Contxts. Contxts enables professionals to share their contact information and more via SMS. Exchange all of your professional information with a single text message. Rid yourself of “old school” business cards. Price: Free.

Contxts App.

Twitter. Twitter is the platform for real-time news. Use a conference or event as an opportunity to provide real-time tweets, photos, and video to your followers. Price: Free.

Twitter App.

Facebook Messenger. Facebook Messenger is an app for mobile conversations. Start a group chat, name your group, and add a photo so everyone can get back to it easily. Have video calls. Send a map of any location for a meeting spot. With a built-in camera, Messenger lets you snap and shoot moments as they happen. You can even add drawings or text. Price: Free.

Facebook Messenger App.

Periscope. Periscope lets you broadcast live video. Going live will instantly notify your followers who can join and comment. Shoot live streaming content for your followers who couldn’t make it. Price: Free.

Periscope App.

GroupMe. GroupMe is a free group messaging app that gives you a private chat room for your small group. Coordinate with your peers, and keep in touch throughout an event. Price: Free.

GroupMe App.

Salesforce1. Salesforce1 is a tool to experience Salesforce from any device and brings your Chatter, customer relationship platform, custom apps, and business processes together. View and edit files from Sharepoint, OneDrive and Google Drive. Price: Free.

Salesforce1 App.

Lanyrd. Lanyrd is an app to find professional events and conferences. See events your Twitter contacts are attending and speaking at. Catch up on slides and videos from events you’ve attended or missed. Price: Free.

Lanyrd App.

Spotcard. Spotcard is a close-proximity business networking app. Discover LinkedIn members nearby, view their LinkedIn profile and send them your digital Spotcard. Export your cards from networking events into a CSV file for use in Excel, Salesforce, and numerous other applications. Price: Free.

Spotcard App.

Foursquare. If you’re traveling to a networking event, you’re going to need places for power lunches and meetings over drinks. Foursquare gives you the best places to eat, drink, shop, or visit in any city of the world. Access reviews from local experts. Price: Free.

Foursquare App.

Google+. The Google+ app lets you connect and network on the go. Automatically back up your pictures, video chat directly from your phone, talk about the stuff you’re interested in with Communities, create events, and more. Plan get-togethers with Events. Discover places with reviews and photos. Price: Free.

Google+ App.

Bizzabo. Bizzabo is an event networking app for conferences. Connect with fellow attendees, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors before, during, and even after events. Get suggestions for people you should meet. Interact through in-app messaging. Access event materials, and leverage social media materials. Price: Free.

Bizzabo App.

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In the world of pay-per-click advertising, a keyword can have different variations. For Google AdWords and Bing Ads, there are five variations, called “match types.” Each one has a specific use that can be leveraged by savvy PPC marketers to improve performance.

Broad Match

This is the default setting for new keywords in most platforms. As its name suggests, it also gives search engines the most latitude when matching your keyword(s) to a specific search query. Both the search query and the keyword can be multiple words. With broad match, your keyword can match a query with the words in any order. It can also match synonyms.

For example, if your keyword were “red shoes,” your ad could appear for multiple search queries, such as “buy red shoes,” “shoes that are red,” “ruby shoes,” and “ruby slippers” — ruby is a shade of red and slippers are a kind of shoe.

Broad match is sometimes too expansive, as in the example above. But it can be good, too. Google reports that as many as 20 percent of monthly searches are unique, meaning it’s the first time the searches have appeared. As an advertiser you don’t want to have to generate 20 percent more keywords each month and hope you guessed right. Broad match can help you catch those new queries. And if you’re interested in a little more control, consider the next match type: modified broad match.

Modified Broad Match

To modify your broad match keywords you simply add the “+” sign in front one or more words. So “red shoes” becomes “+red +shoes.” The benefit is that the modifier tells the search engine your ad should only be eligible if the word marked with a “+” is present.

So now our keyword “+red +shoes” would be eligible for searches like “buy red shoes” and “shoes that are red.” But it would not be eligible for searches like “ruby slippers” or “magenta shoes” or “red Nikes.”

Brad Geddes, a well-known AdWords practitioner, recently said that modified broad match was something that most PPC marketers seem to miss or not know about. But I nearly always recommend using this match type instead of broad match. The only exceptions would be where volume is the main objective. Then you would use many negative keywords, which I’ll address below.

Phrase Match

If the order of keywords in a search query is important for intent, then consider phrase match. For example, if you advertise on “California hotels,” you don’t want to show up for searches on “hotel California.” Phrase match also allows your ad to show when someone adds words before or after, like “best California hotels” or “California hotels near Disneyland.”

To use phrase match, put quotes around your keyword when uploading it into the interface. Note that while I used quotes for broad match above to ensure clarity for this article, use those in the ad interface only when you want to indicate a phrase match.

Exact Match

I’m a control freak about my keywords and campaigns. If you want to indicate to the search engine exactly which words must be present, the exact order they should be in, and that you don’t want to show if the searcher adds something before or after, then exact match is what you want. It is by far the most restrictive match type and will lead to the fewest impressions. However, since your keyword matches the search query exactly — and hopefully matches your ads and landing pages — you would expect to see better performance.

Here is what the four match types look like.

Of the four match types, "broad" is the most expansive and "exact" the least. <em>Source:</em>

In September 2014, AdWords introduced close keyword variations, which some have called “exact-ish” match. Here is the explanation from Google.

We’ll show your ads for close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stems (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. So there’s no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

So even if you are using phrase match and exact match, Google is still taking liberty as to when it shows your ads. This brings me to our last keyword type: negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are phrase and exact match keywords in reverse. With negative keywords, you instruct the search engines what you don’t want to show up. For example, a shoe advertiser using “red shoes” as the keyword could add a negative keyword for “ruby” or “slippers” to keep from showing on “ruby slippers.” She might also want to include “loafers,” “sandals,” “flip flops,” or any other type of shoe that doesn’t match her inventory.

Similarly, a hotel advertiser using “California hotel” as the keyword may want to include negatives like “eagles,” “lyrics,” or “song.” Negative keywords give you additional control to ensure you aren’t spending money on clicks from queries that are irrelevant.

To be sure, keyword research is critical. But making sure you use the correct match types can have as major impact, too, on your final results.

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Nearly all Instagram users access it from their smartphones. Ninety-five percent of users are younger than 35.

With 300 million active monthly users and 30 billion photos shared to date, Instagram is one of social media’s great success stories. This social channel is entirely visual, focused on the sharing of photo and video content. Instagram has attracted a predominately young audience — 90 percent are under 35 years old — and offers brands a high propensity for engagement.

Instagram has no sharing algorithm, unlike Facebook. If a user logs in frequently, she has the potential to see every piece of content from the accounts she follows. Instagram has become the platform of choice for many brands since Facebook’s organic reach is so limited.

In this article, I’ll review 10 key tips and tricks to build your company’s Instagram following and increase its engagement.

Optimizing Instagram for Ecommerce: 10 Tips

1. Always add a link to your profile. The profile link on Instagram is the only place to add a clickable link. All other URLs appear as plain text. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to drive traffic.

2. Forget Twitter. Instagram offers the ability to link up with, and potentially auto post to, various social networks. The integrations with Facebook and Tumblr are fantastic. But the Twitter integration is lacking because Twitter does not support previews of Instagram content. This means that your Twitter followers can see a only short text description and Instagram branded link — unless the followers click away to see the content on Instagram.

3. Create custom locations. You may not be able to add a clickable link, but you can use the location field to add a text link for users to copy and paste into their browsers. Alternatively, use this space to add a call to action, directing the user through to your profile for the link. The best way to do this is to upload your photo and then select the edit post option, to type in your web address or call to action in the location field.

4. Hashtags rule. Hashtags are one of the most popular tools to navigate throughout Instagram and find new accounts to follow. They’re more functional on Instagram than on Facebook and Twitter. Hashtags can be anything from simple keywords to topical phrases. Here are few commonly used Instagram hashtags.

  • #TBT. Short for “throwback Thursday,” this hashtag is used to reference memories and highlights from your past.
  • #OOTD. This hashtag stands for “outfit of the day.” It’s often used by bloggers and fashion brands
  • #nofilter. This is for photos that don’t use any of the filters offered on the app. It frequently highlights natural beauty and good photography skills

Other popular hashtags are #photooftheday and #picoftheday, in addition to keywords like #fashion, #style, and #family. You can see a full list here:

5. Think small. Instagram’s main point of access is via mobile apps. Thus, the vast majority of Instagram users will be looking at content on a smartphone screen. Be mindful that any copy overlaying an image is readable on a small screen, and also that the image is focused and grabs attention as the user scrolls through content. Curalate, the social media platform,offers some helpful tips to help you create imagery that really performs.

6. Use add-on apps. Once you’ve mastered the basics of Instagram, you may find the app’s editing capabilities limited. Luckily there are many accompanying apps that can help you create different content formats and even edit images more accurately. My favorites are Regram, Afterlights, Layout, and Hyperlapse. Here are seven more.

7. Repurpose content. Exclusive Instagram content is always the best, but content from other networks can easily be repurposed on Instagram, too. This is most effective in creating shortened versions of existing video content. With some basic editing tools, you can turn your existing long form video assets into 15-second clips to hook in your audience and drive interest in the longer story.

8. Be part of the community. The community of comments and likes around Instagram content is hugely important. Make sure you schedule time to comment on posts you like, seek out key influencers, and check for any brand mentions.

9. Represent your customers. Reposting — “regramming,” to use the Instagram terminology — photos that your users tag or mention can be a fantastic way to strengthen the brand experience. This can also be a useful way to show current and potential customers how your products can be used — from everyday scenarios to the plain crazy.

10. Post daily. The most successful Instagram communities are active daily. Post at least once a day to maximize your reach.

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On Cyber Monday, online shoppers will endure an email deluge as nearly every retailer sends some special offer to its active subscribers. A last minute Cyber Monday email planned Sunday afternoon — the day before — won’t do. If your business is going to be competitive on Cyber Monday, plan your email marketing now.

There is a lot at stake for retailers on Cyber Monday, which falls on November 30 this year. Consider that in 2014, Cyber Monday represented more than $40 billion in ecommerce transactions in the United States alone, according to Marketing Land. Those sales were up 15.4 percent from 2013.

Getting your company’s share of those sales will likely depend on how well you execute your email marketing.

Finalize Offers

From the shopper's point of view, Cyber Monday is about deals.

Price is a significant sales driver during the Cyber Monday frenzy — you will need to have some offers planned. For the most part, however, this should already be done. Back in April of this year, I suggested that you start working on Black Friday and Cyber Monday early.

If you took my advice then, you bought some items specifically to offer them up as Cyber Monday sacrifices. Here is what I wrote in April.

Imagine an online retailer that sells men’s watches. It inventories a watch called the X1 that it pays $50 for wholesale and retails for $100. The distributor who sells to this online retailer might make a special offer on the X1 watch, say 10 percent below the usual wholesale price, if the retailer buys 1,000 units in July rather than waiting until October. The special offer means that the retailer is now paying $45 for the X1 watch and could offer it on Cyber Monday at $50 and still make a small profit, while offering a low sale price that at least some competitors will not be able to match.

Now is the time to start finalizing those plans. Write the copy. Decide how to build urgency.

Build a Cyber Monday List

If can also be a good idea to bolster your email list ahead of the holiday rush. Consider having a Cyber-Monday-specific email subscription field.

Target is building its Cyber Monday email list right now.

Target, as an example, does a good job with this. If you visit the Target Cyber Monday pagenow, you will find a link and an invitation to “get the scoop” about the company’s Cyber Week offers.

Best Buy is also building a Cyber Monday email list now.

Best Buy has a similar email invitation on its Cyber Monday landing page, along with information about its current deals.

You might even consider putting your Cyber Monday sign up right on your site’s home page.

Identify Holiday Shoppers

In its “Be an Email Ninja This Holiday Season” guide, Windsor Circle, a retention-marketing firm, recommends “re-activating” holiday buyers from last year.

Create a special segment in your email list. These should be shoppers who made a purchase during the holiday season. For these folks, you may be able to start your Cyber Monday email campaign early.

Consider inviting them to a deal preview or letting them reserve Cyber Monday items.

Segment Your Email List

Cyber Monday sales are too important for a blast and pray approach to email marketing. Unless you offer a very narrow line of products, it is unlikely that you will send every email message to every person on your email list.

Instead segment your list and send segment-specific offers.

Retailers “have an opportunity to showcase specific items of interest to a customer along with personalized offers that may vary from (or be in addition to) a sitewide special,” wrote Forrester vice president Sucharita Mulpuru, who is the research firm’s principal ecommerce analyst.

Have a Holiday Post-purchase Series

Most holiday shoppers have more than one friend or family member on a holiday shopping list. And, it is not uncommon for a shopper to make multiple holiday purchases from the same online retailer.

With this in mind, plan a holiday, post-purchase email series that is aimed at thanking the customer and building a longer lasting relationship.

This series could start with your standard transactional emails, like shipping notifications, but could also include a simple thank you message, an invitation to share the shopping experience, a request for a product review, or a personal recommendation, as follows.

  • Transactional messages
  • Thank you message
  • Share your experience message
  • Product review request
  • Personal recommendation
  • Reorder reminder
Build Your Subject Line

Your customers and prospects are going to be receiving many emails on Cyber Monday. It is unlikely that they will open every single message.

Your best hope of standing out in the inbox is, first, to have a good relationship with your customers and, second, to have an outstanding email subject line.

Here is challenge. Track how long it takes you to create the graphics for your Cyber Monday emails. Count the time you spend writing the copy for your Cyber Monday emails. Add all of that up, and spend that much time writing and testing your subject lines.

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This article is mainly for brick-and-mortar merchants, regarding the October 1, 2015 fraud-liability rule changes and misleading sales tactics surrounding the changes.

The new rules are causing a high percentage of retail merchants to change their card processing equipment to avoid liability for certain fraudulent transactions. Read my February and March 2015 articles — “EMV Credit Cards, Part 2: Point-of-sale Devices, Alternatives”and “Follow-up: EMV Credit Cards and AmEx OptBlue” — if you are not familiar with EMV chip cards and the fraud liability change on October 1, 2015.

The reason for this article is to alert merchants that the use of EMV cards has produced some misleading sales tactics that can harm the merchants’ businesses.

EMV credit cards.

Misleading Sales Tactics for EMVEquipment

1. Do not sign a new agreement. You should not have to sign a new agreement with your existing provider to upgrade your equipment to process EMV chip cards.

If your existing provider tells you to sign a new agreement to process EMV chip cards, something else is likely happening other than simply upgrading your equipment and it’s probably not in your best interest.

Merchants have recently contacted me because their existing salespeople told them that they had to sign a new agreement in order to upgrade their equipment to process the new chip cards.

In one specific case, the merchant didn’t understand why he started receiving two statements each month after upgrading. One statement had just minimum monthly fees; the other had the full processing detail and costs.

What the merchants didn’t realize is that they had unknowingly changed providers and in the process changed their pricing and their terms and conditions. They were receiving a statement with minimum fees from the original provider because their salesperson never informed the original provider of the change.

What the merchants didn’t realize is that they had unknowingly changed providers and in the process changed their pricing and their terms and conditions.

Keep in mind that independent sale agents generally sell for more than one provider. They do this for several reasons, mainly to not rely on a single provider for their income.

Unfortunately, some salespeople try to take advantage of representing more than one provider by switching an existing merchant to another provider they represent, to obtain bonuses or other income from the second provider. I’m confident that’s what this sales agent did in this instance.

2. Do not switch providers. Most providers have very strict rules preventing sales agents from switching merchants for personal gain.

In the above example, the sales agent didn’t inform the original provider because, presumably, he violated his contract with the original provider. I know a salesperson that played the provider switching game last year and lost $150,000 in annual residuals when the provider discovered it.

If your salesperson changes your provider without you fully understanding it, the original provider would probably like to know so it can deal with the salesperson.

If your salesperson changes your provider without you fully understanding it, the original provider would probably like to know so it can deal with the salesperson.

The issue of being misleading to merchants isn’t limited to small providers or sales agents that represent several companies. A salesperson from one of the largest banks in the country recently had a merchant sign a new contract — supposedly to use EMV chip card equipment.

The salesperson placed the merchant on a new pricing plan without fully communicating the change. Once again, the merchant started receiving two statements; its monthly processing costs also increased.

3. Watch for salespeople posing as card-company employees. Beware of telemarketers and salespeople posing as someone from one of the card companies.

I have had a number of merchants tell me that they received phone calls from Visa telling them that their terminals are illegal and they must upgrade them. I have never heard of a Visa employee calling a merchant in that manner. Moreover, terminals that cannot process EMV chip card data are not illegal. Certainly merchants should understand the fraud liability shift that takes place on October 1, 2015 and the business decision they must make, as I described in my February and March articles.

4. Never lease equipment. Many salespeople are taking advantage of merchants by leasing terminals and PIN pads for absurd amounts. I’ve spoken with merchants who have signed leases at $99 or more per month for up to four years. These terminals and PIN pads cost $200 to $300 to purchase. If a salesperson ever suggests leasing the equipment, you are speaking to the wrong salesperson. Period.


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