Friday, March 23, 2012

Blood from a Turnip

Attentive readers might realize that I’m looking for a way to jazz up my sales without a lot of expense or risk – to dip a toe slightly outside my comfort zone, as it were. This month Facebook advertising flopped and I successfully resisted assimilation by the Amazon collective. I was wondering what to do next when a SEO salesman called. Ordinarily I terminate telemarketers the moment they say “How’s your day going?”, but this one’s timing was lucky. I let him pitch me the usual complementary site analysis and follow-up phone call.

Typing those letters is like throwing chum in shark-infested waters. Telephone spammers will frenzy minutes after I hit the Post button. So be it. Search Engine Optimization has been on my to-do list for years. I’m not clever enough to implement most of the free advice that I’ve been given over the years, even when I can understand it, because a PHP shopping cart isn’t as straightforward as a plain HTML website. Consequently I can’t do much more than write keyword-heavy product descriptions and plug meta phrases into Sunshop’s provided fields. I know that I need professional help if I'm ever to get serious about SEO.

Nathan satisfied me that his company is thorough, knowledgeable, and non-sleazy. They don’t use link farms or make grandiose promises. Their analysis ranked me at 53 on a 1-100 scale where anything under 40 is pathetic and 70 is well-optimized, so I’m already doing better than I would have expected. I’m quite sure that they could improve my natural search rankings and, eventually, my sales. The big question is affordability. Tight cash flow is a common lament in this blog. SEO is a long-range prospect; improvements made today don’t bear fruit for weeks and it takes months for incremental sales increases to add up, yet the bills are due immediately and in full.

We’ll talk cost next Monday. I’ve warned Nathan that I’ll have to put him on hold, if I can even do it at all. Payroll taxes are due in April. I already have nine vendors on my new product wishlist, and tomorrow’s Cavalcade of Crap might add even more. I need to reorder four of my mainstays. And Intuit wants $184 just because. That gobbles up any free cash in April and probably May as well…and then we’re in the summer doldrums. But he’s a salesman, and he smells blood.

(Incidentally, as a longtime blood donor who’s homing in on his 4 gallon pin, I offer this disclaimer from Wikipedia: A turnip cannot be coaxed, squeezed, or cajoled into producing blood. All efforts at obtaining blood from this vegetable will be futile. There's no substitute for rolling up your sleeve.)


Reasons to hate UPS: An envelope from the UPS Dimensional Adjustment Bureau is not the exciting science fictiony thing that its name suggests. It ordinarily heralds a surcharge for a package measurement error. Miracle of miracles, this particular envelope held an unexplained check for $1.55. Why is this a reason to hate UPS? Because they issued and mailed a paper check that I had to endorse and schlep to the bank’s ATM; the bank had to process it and return it to UPS; and UPS presumably has to reconcile their account...all of which must cost more than $1.55. Why didn’t they just refund my credit card? They never hesitate to charge it when an alleged error is in their favor.


Reasons to hate Quickbooks: For $184, Intuit would like to sell me some new bloat that I’ll never use and keep my current install fully functional for three more years. The only “services” that I use are emailing purchase orders and invoices directly through QB, and automatically downloading bug fixes. $15 per month to preserve a “service” that I might use two or three times is not exactly a good value; I can easily save documents as PDFs and email them myself. OTOH, Curio City is essentially just a website, a MySQL database, and a Quickbooks file. I feel compelled to keep those components up to date even when there’s no clear benefit. I suppose I should shop around and see if anybody sells it below Intuit’s $184.


Here’s what $350 of Facebook advertising finally bought me:

•    391,111 impressions;
•    141 “social impressions” (impressions shown with the names of the viewers’ friends who Liked my page);
•    93 clicks (Not according to Google Analytics, but OK, if they say so);
•    4 people Liked my page;
•    And, of course 0 sales.

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