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Rob Snell
Works at Gun Dog Supply, Snell Brothers, Copy Cow
Attended Mississippi State
Lives in Starkville, Mississippi
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Retailer, Yahoo! Store Marketing consultant, Author
  • Gun Dog Supply, Snell Brothers, Copy Cow
    Retailer, Yahoo! Store Marketing consultant, Author, present
  • Gun Dog Comics
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Starkville, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi - St Louis, MO; Jackson, MS
Rob Snell is an online retailer and the author of Starting a Yahoo! Store For Dummies (Wiley). Rob is also a conference speaker on search marketing and e-commerce, and has extensive Yahoo! Store experience with both family-owned stores ( and consulting clients ( generating tens of millions of dollars in online sales. Most recently Rob testified to the United States Congress on the impact of search marketing on small business.

So let's talk a little bit about trust symbols.

Rob:  Well, yeah.  Shawna one of the things you can do on your site for folks don't know you and they meet you for the first time or they come across your website for the first time is have trust symbols on your site.  And by trust symbols I mean things like icons from reputable companies that you also do business with.

A good example would be you have a Yahoo store.  Well, Yahoo is a known brand on the Internet.  A Yahoo Store icon that says "Hey, this website is a Yahoo store"; that is one of the first trust symbols every single Yahoo store should have on their site. 

Shawna:  You know, and that is one of the things when people say "Why should I use a Yahoo Store?" it is like "Hello, everybody has heard of Yahoo."

Rob:  Absolutely. 

Shawna:  So why not use that towards your advantage?

Rob:  And you are paying for it so you might as well use it.  And they provide some badges that you can use on your site.  I have made my own.  I will probably get in trouble for doing that.  [laughs]

Shawna:  We won't tell anybody.  [laughs]

Rob:  Exactly.  Keep that between you and me.

Shawna:  All right!  [laughs]

Rob:  But also like credit card logos; we had a slightly less than a one percent increase in our conversion rate by just having the credit card logos in one of our store's checkouts.  That is not going to double my conversion rate, but it was actually a measurable increase after thousands of transactions.  So trust symbols actually work. 
And by that, I also mean like your shipping methods; like a UPS logo, or a USPS logo, or FedEx.  Or like a Better Business Bureau symbol-that kind of thing.  That basically shows folks that you are a real company and you are affiliated with other places that they trust.  It is kind of like your badge that says this is who I am and you can trust me.

Shawna:  Absolutely.  And you know, a lot of the stuff that they are talking about with the new marketing is that more…I hate to say senior people, but older generation are shopping online and they are scared to give out their credit card information.

Rob:  Absolutely. 

Shawna:  So by giving those logos that they are used to seeing, because a lot of them are not used to seeing Hacker Safe.

Rob:  Right.  We have done really well on some of our sites by having the Hacker Safe logo.  It is expensive.  It is like $1,800 I believe a year.  But the amount of increase that we got, the ROI was like 50 to one on one of our projects.  We saw a seven percent increase in conversions where new shoppers saw the Hacker Safe seal on the Yahoo store.

The funny thing is my dad used to call this eye wash; stuff that makes you look good but doesn't really matter.  He is like "I am not paying $1,800 for eye wash!"  I understand where he is coming from.  But Hacker safe runs the test on your website like they do for everybody else.  Between you, me and the fence post, Hacker Safe can't advertise this but they are the company that actually does the testing on Yahoo Store's servers.  They have a contract with Yahoo to make sure that their servers are secure.  That is public information but Hacker Safe can't actually go around and have a big flag that says that.  But I learned that and I like to pass that on.  They are a really good company to have.

The other thing is that when you are a Hacker Safe retailer I believe that you get a link back from their directory.  So it is always good to get some traffic from that too.

Shawna:  Absolutely.  We love those link backs.  I love the Hacker Safe logo.  I agree with you, but I also love the fact that you are also talking about those other logos too that people who maybe don't shop online all the time, who may not be familiar with that logo, they have seen Better Business Bureau.  They have seen the UPS logo.  So I love that you mention that. 

Rob:  Right.  Paypal is another good one if you accept Paypal as a payment method. And you should if you don't because that will increase your sales.  Put the Paypal icon on your site.  I am sitting here looking at one of my product pages not seeing a Paypal icon.  Oh, there it is. OK.  Good.

Shawna:  [laughs]

Rob:  I need to take my own advice, you know? 

Shawna:  That's all right!

Rob:  The thing is you can do different things on different types of pages on your site.  We were talking about the home page and the checkout, but actually, on the product page I have learned this the hard way.  The manufacturer of a product usually has a logo that they spend millions of dollars advertising across the United States.  Take advantage of that with their permission.  You want to make sure you are an authorized retailer or whatever, but put the manufacturer's logo on your product page.

I have a story to tell.  On one of my sites it is a site where we sell softball bats and baseball bats; one of my revenue share sites.  I got obsessed with load speed.  I wanted my pages to load so fast I was like "Well what little icons are on here that I can get off?  Anything to make my page load faster" Well, there were all these baseball bat manufacturer's logos at the top of the page.  I was like "Well man, I can just take those off the product page because they don't need to see these 12 different bat logos."  I did that and 12 hours later I got a phone call from my retailer freaking out because sales had dropped by 50%.

Shawna:  Wow! 

Rob:  I know!  And it was like on the product page!  I felt like an idiot after doing it.  Who knows how many thousands of dollars in sales we didn't get that day, but I learned a very valuable lesson.  Manufacturer logos are trust symbols. 

So take advantage of that.  You are advertising their brand.  If you sell Easton baseball bats put an Easton logo on that baseball bat page. 

Shawna:  Now you got to a good area I want to talk about.  Let's talk about how do you improve your conversion rates on your product pages?

Rob:  Yahoo Store has come a long way from their original templates.  We are probably on like the third version of RTML now.

Shawna:  Thank God.

Rob:  Yeah, I know. 


Rob:  But now they have finally got it to where this last version of the store, if somebody has a generic store, they are actually pretty much OK.  There are all kinds of things that you need to add, but they have taken all the things that all the different RTML developers have done over the years and folded most of the good ones into just a basic template. 

If you want to really boost your store up there are some things that you can do that Yahoo Store is not doing.  One of those for me is having a big honking red "add to cart" button.  Everybody in the warehouse used to make fun of me because I had an "add to cart" button that was smaller than my pinkie fingernail.  I was like "Well I wonder what happens if I make that bigger."  So I kept making it bigger and bigger and bigger.  And finally it is as big as half my thumb right now.  Everyone in the warehouse was laughing at me going "Look at that huge honking red button".  But our conversion rate kept going up.  And then I stopped making it larger as soon as our conversion rate topped out.  So I was doing some testing and I learned for my site, for this specific site, this "add to cart" button is what it needs to be.  So that is one example of what you can do on the product page.

Another example is to actually show that you have the item in stock.  Yahoo has the availability field.  What I usually put in there is I like to say it is a normally stocked item or "in stock and ready to ship" or "usually ships same business day."  I think that is very important on the product pages. 

Another thing is I think it was like a third of the products on the internet…This was like a Yahoo survey from a million years ago.  But they talked about only a third of the products on the Yahoo Store platform actually had sale pricing.  It is so important to show the list price and actually what you are selling it for because most people on the Internet are selling things less than the MSRP.  You want to show what full retail would be, what you are paying at my store, and then I like to show either the percentage and/or the dollar savings depending on what type of store it is.

Shawna:  It is that whole mental thing.  People want to think that they are saving money.

Rob:  Yeah!  And they are because they are shopping online.  They are not having to use gasoline.  A lot of folks have free shipping.  Most of the folks that I know online are discounting at least 10% off.  So it really helps the conversion rate by what I call pimping out your product page. 

Shawna:  [laughs] Yes, and I have seen the pimping pictures. 

Rob:  Oh man.  I will never live that down.  I was telling my brother and lunch today, I was going "I cannot believe…They woke me up from a nap and I got stuck on this panel called "Pimp Your Website."  It was on Yahoo Stores.  That was awesome.  I had more fun because of that after that than I have had in a long time.  So now I am the Yahoo Store pimp.

Shawna:  Oh yeah!  Pimp Daddy!  [laughs]

Rob:  Awesome.

Shawna:  Now one of the things I have heard a lot about is doing free gifts with purchase.  What do you think of those?

Rob:  Absolutely.  If you have something where you can provide a small incentive, something that has a pretty high value to the customer but doesn't cost you a whole bunch…Like on one of my revenue share sites we got about a 20% increase around Christmas offering a free gift with purchase.  It was close to a 20% bounce once we started doing it.

Shawna:  Wow! 

Rob:  I know!  And it cost us a dollar for this gift on the retail price because my dude is buying them on closeout.  The retail value if you went and bought one of these things would be like 10 or 12 bucks.  With import companies you can find all kinds of cool little things you can do.  Like just a little bonus item when folks get to the shopping cart.  It is like "Hey, if you order today you get a free whatever."

Shawna:  Now, one of the things I hear you talking about- "We tested this.  We tested that.  We tested this."  What are some best practices for our smaller Yahoo stores that want to start testing and finding out "OK, does this work or does this not work?"

Rob:  Well the first thing is tracking.  I mean, there are people whose full time job is to do nothing but test offers on websites.  I remember I was eating lunch with somebody from Victoria's Secret, which sounds better than it is.

Shawna:  [laughs] I had a vision.

Rob:  Yeah.  I got to find out Victoria's Secret other secret, which is they have an hour for a home page special to prove itself in sales because that real estate is so valuable, if that whatever, thong or whatever doesn't convert like it should, they yank it off and put another thong on there or something else. 

Shawna:  Wow! 

Rob:  I know retailers who have the same exact home page specials, and I am one of them, for ten years.  What I recommend folks do is you want to test your home page specials.  Tracking is the first step.  Once you get good tracking in, that is the first step.

The second step is actually being able to use a third party tool like Google Website Optimizer.  It is free and boy it makes my head hurt.  It is very difficult to test things in there.  But let me back up two steps, OK?

Shawna:  OK.

Rob:  Rotate your specials out on the home page.  You can actually manually keep up with this if you want to.  As a general rule of thumb, I can double the sales on an item if I stick them on my home page.  That right there is why my home page specials really haven't changed much on a regular basis.

Shawna:  Wow.

Rob:  Yeah, it is pretty cool.

Shawna:  Well, we are going to come back and talk more about how to use ad words to do different landing pages and all kinds of other great stuff.  You are just providing wonderful information here.

This is Shawna Fanell on leader in Internet talk.


Narrator:  Welcome to One Choice's Yahoo Store Power Hour with your host Shawna Fanell.

Shawna:  Welcome back.  I started this interview so excited and now I have to tell you I am so bummed out because I have like three more pages of questions to ask you and I can't believe that already 45 minutes has gone by, because didn't we just start this like a minute ago?

Rob:  I know.  We can do it again.

Shawna:  OK good!  I am holding you to that.

Rob:  Awesome.

Shawna:  I am going to be seeing you in about two weeks here for Internet Retailer so I will be twisting that arm, you know?

Rob:  Absolutely.  No, I love talking about this stuff.  You know that.  Once you get me talking it is kind of hard to get me to shut up.

Shawna:  Hey, that is what I love though.  It is wonderful.  All right.  So we were talking about how you can test things out for yourself.  What about using Google Adwords to try out different landing pages?

Rob:  Oh, that is awesome.  I call it redneck landing page testing.

Shawna:  [laughs] I love your phrases!

Rob:  It is like even a redneck can do it!  If a redneck can do it you can do it, all right?

Shawna:  I love your phrases!

Rob:  Oh, man.  OK.  I will give you a real world example, all right?  We sell a bark collar.  I hear all these people talking like "Well, if you sell apparel you want the model to be wearing the clothes instead of just showing the clothes on a hanger."  They say "It doubles conversion rate."  I was like "We don't sell clothes really.  We sell dog collars."  So what could I use for a model?  I guess I will get the dog and I will have two different versions of landing pages.  Landing page A has got a picture of just the product shot.  Landing page B is going to have a picture of the dog wearing the product. 

Shawna:  OK.

Rob:  Inside Google Adwords you can have multiple ads for the same keyword.  If you click the rotate button it will automatically rotate different version of your ad and it will allow you to use split testing that way. 

So the landing page for A would be like barkcollara.html and the landing page for B would be like dogcollarb.html.  At the end of the day you could see which version of the page sold more product.  From that you could decide "OK.  Well from here on out I want to make sure that I have got dog shots all over my website." 

It worked.  It is like we saw a huge lift in increase in sales on the picture on the product shot where we would show the dog wearing the product. 

Shawna:  So now you have them coming in and posing?

Rob:  Absolutely. 

Shawna:  [laughs]

Rob:  My brother has got me with the camera out in the dang woods and in the swamp and in the field and I have got chiggers all over me.  Oh man.  There are places I thought I would never go to take pictures that are authentic.

You know, everybody uses the same manufacturer images on their website.  He wanted something a little bit different so I got him to go in with me on this fancy camera.  He woke me up at six o'clock in the morning on a Saturday.  He had me out in Louisville Mississippi in a swamp.  Oh man.  I don't even want to talk about it. 

Shawna:  [laughs] Now see, you also have to share those pictures of you in the swamp.  Talk about getting personal with your customers!

Rob:  Yeah, absolutely!  We are actually in the field.  He is an enthusiast.  He is a hunter.  He trains dogs.  He has 13 dogs.  He is serious about this and that allows him to bond with his customers.  His customers go "Hey, he is one of us.  Let's get it from this guy" instead of some guy who is just doing a database feed from a drop shipper who is a competitor of ours.

Shawna:  Well I love the way that you bring up the redneck way of doing it. 

Rob:   Yeah!

Shawna:  I do get a lot of questions about Google Website Optimizer and how they are trying to use it with the Yahoo Store.  This is such an easier way to do it.  I believe that another thing, it is like you have to uncheck…What is it?

Rob:  Yeah, you don't want Google to optimize your ad.  I don't know if it is on the campaign setting or if it is on the actual ad group setting, but there is a box.  The words rotate.  You want the radio button; click next to rotate and it rotates your ads evenly.

Shawna:  Right.  We have got to make sure we mention that part.  All right.  A lot of the customers with the Yahoo store got an email this week about migrating to the new checkout.

Rob:  I know.  I called technical support the day after the email it.  The average wait time was more than 30 minutes. 

Shawna:  Ooof!

Rob:  I know.  Everybody is calling Yahoo, pulling their hair out, and freaking out over this.  It is not that big of a deal.  It is really easy for folks to do.  There is a ton of information online about it.  There are some things we can just touch on that will get folks educated about what to do and what not to do. 

Shawna:  Perfect.  Help me.

Rob:  All right.  Yahoo has got over 100 pages of documentation in their help files.

Shawna:  So different than 10 years ago, huh?

Rob:   Yeah.  They actually have help files.  One of my buddies is one of the writers for these.  They have done such a good job, whereas like you said, ten years ago they didn't have time or whatever.  We just kind of had to figure stuff out on our own.

Shawna:  Oh no.  We had Estaban and you.

Rob:  Well yeah.  There are some people who put information out there.  I am glad you brought up Estaban's name.  Estaban of or has a book called "Yahoo Store Checkout Customization".  I have known Estaban for a while.  We have done seminars together.  He is a good buddy of mine.  He is out in Hawaii.  He has written the book on customizing your Yahoo store checkout.  I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of it.  I have not finished it yet but it is cheap.  I was like "Dude, you need to be selling this for like two or three hundred bucks, you know?"

Shawna:  Ahh!

Rob:  I know.  It is like $20.  It is a bargain.  If you have a Yahoo store you need to buy this book.  I don't get a commission or anything for saying that. 

Shawna:  Well, we are going to put links on our website to all of these great tools and to your website and even to his book.  I am sure you have heard I give out his book too when I am giving the speeches.

Rob:  Very good. 

Shawna:  It is like your book and his book go hand in hand. 

Rob:  Awesome.  Well, I will do something.  The Dummies folks let me give away free chapters.  If folks email you and you send there names to me I will send them a free PDF of the conversion chapter.

Shawna:  Perfect.

Rob:  We did a promotion with the Dummies folks and with Yahoo store; I guess about a year ago when we did that.  I still have permission to do that, so I will be happy to send that conversion chapter to anybody who forwards their name to me.

Shawna:  I love it.  I hate to say it- we only have a little bit more time together.  Cover some more.

Rob:  Chapter 14 in my Dummies book is a really good overview of the checkout process.  The main difference between the new checkout and the old checkout is that the old checkout used to be that you actually had to customize the shopping cart on the store editor side of the fence and then you had to customize the shipping info and the billing info pages on the store manager side of the fence.  Well now they have gotten everything in this nice little wizard, in this one checkout manager, and it is pretty easy.  It is something where you don't have to have custom programming skills to actually implement the thing, but you might need some help and there are a lot of developers who are really good at this who can help folks.

Shawna:  Absolutely.  One of the things that I really like about it is that you don't even have to publish it and you can do a whole bunch of testing and place test orders and verify that everything is working the way that you want it to be working.

Rob:  Exactly.  And it is not like the old way where you press a button and you just get to preview it and kind of get somewhat of an idea.  You go to the checkout manager and press a button and it puts a cookie on your machine so your computer actually gets a different shopping experience than your customers and you actually get to test your shopping cart settings before you roll them out and let everybody see them.

Shawna:  Now do you have specific advice as far as conversion rates for the checkout order flow?

Rob:  Yeah.  The main thing, the first thing is don't use their review page.  I hate the review page.  For me the biggest advantage of using the new checkout is that you can uncheck the button and not have the review page.  Once a customer has given the retailer the shipping information and the billing information and hits "place order", I call it the "are you really, really sure you want to give me money or do you want to change your mind?" 

I swear!  We have seen two to three percent of the folks who actually are ready to give us money back out once they hit that review page.  I don't know if it is an error or people are having second thoughts, but I don't…You know.

Shawna:  A lot of times people get to that page and think that they are done.

Rob:  Yes, there you go.

Shawna:  Then they call up and say "Well why didn't I get my order?"

Rob:  Exactly.  So undo that.  I think the default is not to have a review but I can't remember.  You will know what I am talking about when you go into order flow.  You don't want a review page. 

The other thing is if you have lower priced items, nowadays you can actually have a one page checkout.  You can have it to when somebody adds something to the shopping cart it is secure and on that page they can put in their shipping info and credit card info and "Boom" and hit the "place order" button.  So it is a one page checkout.

The funny thing is if you have something that people want, they will jump through flaming hoops to get through your checkout if your checkout is just horrible.  If you have something that people don't want, even if you have the best checkout in the world, they are still not going to buy from you.  So it is really important that you are doing a good job, selling a good product, and providing good customer service. 

Shawna:  We have about 30 seconds left.  Give me your best tip for the new cart.

Rob:  My best tip is to make sure that you put "we will not spam you" by the email address and mean it.  People hate spam.  Don't spam.

Shawna:  I love it.  I absolutely love it.  All right.  If you want a copy of the chapter that talks about conversion rates, you email us and we will get it over to you.  Of course if you want the book go to  We will have on that as well.  And don't forget, you can catch us live here Monday 3 PM-4PM Pacific Time, 6-7 PM Eastern, or catch the archives at

Thank you Rob for being here. 

Rob:  Thank you so much. 

Shawna:  I appreciate it so much.

Rob:  Any time. 

Shawna:  This is Shawna Fanell on WS Radio-Worldwide leader in Internet Talk. 
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