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eCommerce Website Builder Reviews
It's All In The Making!
It's All In The Making!


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Introductory Video For Storebuilder eCommerce Services
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20 years ago I picked up a copy of the Sunday Times and out fell the glossy magazine the newspaper uses as a vehicle to sell expensive advertising space. Along with all the other clutter that used to go straight in the bin. There should be a tax levied on distributing material that goes straight to recycling.

Buried amongst the celebrity interviews and foodie pages was a restaurant turned TV critic reviewing the week's Television. AA Gill was as heartless as a ravenous grizzly bear whether tearing apart badly done drama or savaging undercooked restaurant food. His eviscerate penmanship brooked no mercy as he sought to “unpick the thing” from which, having succeeded, he took enormous pleasure.

But equally, Gill was revered for his unique style which would reveal how well something was made, without being a sop to whatever it was he was reviewing.

To commemorate the upcoming anniversary of his death, I've dedicated this blog post to him.
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There are literally hundreds of online website builders on the market and most of them aren't worth the hosting space they were built on.

All of them claim to be “the best solution” but there is no best solution just as there is no best car. A Ferrari would be nice to have to commute to work in but for taking the family on an extended camping holiday it would sadly come up short.

Some solutions are better than others depending on what you are going to use it for. Always go for the simpler solution and start making money rather than start building something complex that won't have all of its features used and turns into a time and money pit.

Check out my "website builder quick guide" which will help you make the decision with ease
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Check out my new review of freewebstore.
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Shopify launches Kit "Favours" For It's Automated Virtual Assistant

Running an online business is getting easier and easier. It's the staying ahead of the competition bit that's difficult.

The software that we use to build our sites and communicate our message improves every day.

Whether you blog with Wordpress, build tutorial sites with Joomla or run an e-commerce store with Shopify, the software you use to achieve the goal steadily gets more sophisticated and over time the cost of using it reduces.

Where it was once enough to be able to build an e-commerce store in the first place and be in the marketplace, with the proliferation of DIY e-commerce web-store builders that's no longer a good enough advantage. Anyone can build an e-commerce store and populate it using drop shipping techniques for next to nothing.

The barrier to entry keeps being lowered and the height at which the bar is set for success keeps being raised. To stay ahead of the competition you need to be doing the things they are not.

It's tough on your own. You need all the help you can get because running an e-commerce store is not the hands free exercise that most people think it is before they get involved!

There are a multitude of time planners, calendars and customer relationship managers available to help you plan your time. Shopifys “Kit” is another tool you can use to help organise your marketing effort.

What is Shopify Kit?
Kit is a virtual assistant designed to minimise the amount of time you spend on lead generation, advertising and sales so that you can spend it elsewhere. Sourcing better products, improving your website photos or other activities that improve your business.

Kit will create a Facebook ad campaign for you and send personalised thank you emails to customers who have purchased through your store. It works by connecting to your Facebook page and your Facebook Ad account. It's very simple to set up - if you are an existing Shopify user simply install the in store app.

Try Kit Free
Kit used to be available on a time based trial period but Shopify have changed that to a “Favours” model whereby you get to try the app free for a certain number of uses.

The new Favours feature for Kit will let it create two Facebook ad campaigns and promote two Facebook social posts (you’ll still have to pay Facebook for the ads) free of charge, and it’ll also send out your first five thank you emails to customers upon purchase. The idea is that the virtual assistant will work for free until it makes five sales on your behalf.

Kit founder Michael Perry explained :

The biggest fear that small business owners have is they’re actually sceptical out the gate that Kit even works.
By removing the requirement to enter credit card details Shopify hope that more people will try the virtual assistant and convince the sceptics that it actually works. Shopify is a big believer in automated assistance and Kit is another step in that direction.

Have you tried Kit? What do you think of the automated virtual assistant?

More e-commerce hints and tips to build your webstore at
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Drip Drip Drip - The Power Of Little And Often

The year is 2004. Google’s IPO raises $1.67 Billion, Janet Jackson exposes her breast during the half time super bowl show and Lance Armstrong wins the sixth of his drug fuelled Tour De France.

When factory workers pack that next box, press the machine button or office workers click their mouse; unless you do something you love it can often feel like time is standing still.

But when it comes to remembering these historic events from just twelve years ago you realise how quickly time marches on.

In 2004 PPC bidding was still in its infancy and the quirky Overture interface was a soft belly that Google beat the shit out of.

You could still bid 0.10p on the content network for reasonably performing property keywords and I know that because it was the year I became Internet marketing Manager for Property Mentor.

When I joined that company in June 2004 all we had was a flaky net objects fusion website which was a poor man’s Dreamweaver at the time and no search engine rankings at all. All leads were generated by paid search.

There was a point after about ten months in my first year where I began to think that I might get the sack because although I was continually adding backlinks the lowly ranking refused to move north and it was beginning to look like a futile exercise in SEO.

Drip Drip Drip

In those days though, Links were the be and end all of search engine optimisation and came way before content as a ranking signal.

Then one day I remember checking the rankings and seeing the Property Mentor site high up on the first page.

Was this a mirage? A cache issue? Could this be for real?

All of a sudden traffic came pouring into the website and the company never looked back.

Even today long since I have done any SEO work for this company the rankings still hold up.

Whilst successive Google updates have reduced the traffic significantly it still gets a reasonable amount of organic visitors.
Doing The Work Is A Small Part Of The Internet Marketing Solution.

Doing the work consistently is what it takes to succeed.

Most people give up before they hit the three month mark. The graveyard for WordPress blogs fills the nether regions of Googles search engine results.

I’m reminded of this famous quote by businessman Ross Perot:

"Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown."

I was working on my casino site today and lamenting the lack of overall traffic coming into the site.

Whilst Webmaster tools tells me that overall rankings are increasing daily it’s still not pulling in the crowd that it should be, or that I think it should be – and this after well over 1,000 hours of coding, writing and publishing.

Casino is a notoriously difficult market to have any measure of success in but the thought that every day you add another article or another piece of content another ten or twenty would be affiliates throw in the towel and walk away because they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel is a big motivation to stick at it.

A small but consistent application of effort over a long period of time will yield results far greater than the sum of the effort.

Drip, drip, drip. It doesn’t matter whether you add a new piece of content every day or every week. Eventually Google will take notice.

The more you add the quicker the magic happens but generally you can expect to wait around six months before you get any recognition for your effort.
Consistency Is The Driving Force That Breaks Down Barriers

Have you ever had a fantastic idea and started work on an affiliate marketing project in a flurry of activity, never to get as far as finishing the website design or the work to start petering out over the next few weeks or months?

Projects often get started in a whirlwind of excitement and an avalanche of man hours but after the initial excitement fades away the stark reality sets in. To be able to make headway you need to apply yourself consistently to the plan.

When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren't the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.
Arsene Wenger

Trying to work on too many ideas at the same time is something that I've been guilty of in the past and it always ends up with very little being accomplished.

Having great ideas is nice to have in your skill-set but if you never act on those ideas or see them through to fruition then they can be more of a hindrance than an ally.

Sometimes you need to give up on a project because you realise that it's never going to be viable.

That's OK, that is part of the learning experience and the quicker you learn to let go of stuff that isn't going to make a return the better.

Most of the time the only way to find out that something doesn't work is to do the spadework in the first place.

More often than not though it isn't the idea that is no good. It is the direction that it is heading in and simple tweaks can make it work properly. But you have to be in it to win it.

Being focused on a single project combined with consistent application over a sustained period of time is the way to get results.
Lets Take Blogging As An Example

There are thousands of blogs started every day but very few will ever be noticed.

The reason for that is because blogs are very easy to start. They require a minimal investment, just some hosting space, a Wordpress theme and you are good to go, nothing stands between you and the Nobel peace prize!

Having the idea and setting up a blog are the easiest parts of making it. The hard part is actually writing the stuff that will interest people.

More importantly it is adding your posts on a consistent basis and sticking to a publishing schedule that yields results.

And that means adding two or three posts every week, for several years, for years to come.

That is the reality and the consistency required to make it successful.

Blogs are one of the harder business plans to bring to fruition because of the amount of creativity and time that they require to create.

Simple to setup but difficult to execute properly.

Consistently working on your project takes discipline and requires that you get into the habit of working at it on a regular basis.

It doesn't matter what the hours are. It just matters that you schedule time and consistently work at it.
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What Sting Can Teach You About Blogging

Whenever I’m struggling for inspiration I’m reminded of Sting’s autobiography. In it he describes the torturous route from living and sleeping rough in his transit van through to meeting his future band mates and their subsequent rise to fame.

Throughout the journey you are always reminded that inspiration can strike at any time and the most important tools in a songwriter’s armoury are the humble pen and paper to jot down the inspiration when it occurs.

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write your blog post and finding yourself completely devoid of ideas.

Trying to think of something to write, without any prior research or thought, is going to put you in a difficult situation, because you are losing time trying to come up with the perfect idea.

The solution is to have a publishing calendar and a list of ideas that you've written down and accumulated. Whether you are a new blogger or a company CEO who wants to establish a web presence for their company, having a publishing calendar solves many problems and leads to content of a much higher quality.

For the modern day digital marketer you can substitute the gig itinerary with the days and dates you want to publish a new article – that’s easy to do you, you can use google calendar for that.

As for the content – I like to use Microsoft OneNote to record all the ideas I get and over time it builds up a list of article ideas that I’ll never run out of.

You can use OneNote on your PC, Mobile and Tablet and synchronise so that your new ideas are always available.

Here's the way I like to do it:

Make a Notebook in OneNote for your website or project. I have a notebook for personal reminders like shopping lists and reading lists where I save interesting looking things for browsing time. This is the default notebook where "quick notes" are saved to. If you are out walking the dogs and inspiration strikes then it's easy to make a quick voice note and remember the idea. Sometimes ideas come at you thick and fast just as you are going to sleep so it's very useful to make voice notes and not worry that you are going to forget the idea.

Then I have a notebook for each website project I'm working on. When I come across new ideas for content it all goes on the "to do" list page for that project. Sometimes ideas are big enough to have their own dedicated pages .

Once you get used to recording all your ideas you need to schedule a time to review them and plan which ideas are going to be acted on. I like to do this on a Sunday afternoon and plan out the publishing calendar for the week after next so that I always have a solid full week of posts in reserve to write and they are timely and interesting.

If you are really stuck for an idea one great technique I like to use is to schedule time to go over your oldest posts and update them. Giving them fresh links to new content you've produced and updating outdated information is a great way of keeping your site fresh.

Using a combination of OneNote and Google Calendar will give you all the free tools you need to create a great publishing schedule and never be stuck for an idea.

Or like many great songwriters you could use a pen and paper!
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There is a fantastic scene in the series one finale of “Mad Men” where the Kodak guys turn up for a presentation by Don to show them how they can market their “wheel”.

It’s certainly the finest 3 minutes of television in the first series and if you haven’t seen “Mad Men” yet and have more than a passing interest in Marketing or Advertising then you have a whole box set of treats awaiting you.

The “wheel” was a new product that Kodak invented to display photos quickly and easily using 35mm slides via a projector screen and in this scene Don turns an ordinary sounding “wheel” into what became known as the Kodak Carousel.

I remember my dad used to have one and he used to spend ages numbering all the slides and placing them in order. There were shots of him sitting on mountains and putting up tents and doing all the fun things that army guys do. I wonder if he still has them in the attic somewhere. I’ll put money on it the original projector is still up there along with all the slides.

He used to get it set up occasionally, maybe if friends were round and they’d have a right old time going through all the pictures and chewing the fat. Now of course it’s just a case of passing around the tablet or uploading another picture to Facebook. The formality may have gone but the underlying human need to share is more alive than ever.

But of course we are not about to start lamenting the passing of old technology. The inexorable march into the future means that there is no place for outdated machinery except maybe in retro bars or for vintage hunters on eBay.

Let Your Readers Feel The Emotion
What Don does with the wheel is turn an ordinary sounding product into something that has magical allure. It’s not simply a device for showing pictures, it’s something that allows you to feel the emotion and when people get emotional they resonate with what they are being shown.

This is why soulless writing has no place on your website

We’ve moved on from the days when paying for just another article to be written was a good investment. People will see through your charade and it’s very easy to spot the difference between something that has been written with the audience in mind and another 500 word keyword stuffed piece of trash.

If you own a company that intends to have a more than mediocre web presence then you have to give your audience what they want and what they want is to feel the emotion. They know when they are being spoon fed a substandard product.

Take a leaf out of Don’s book and begin to describe your product in colourful detail. Explain why you love it so much, why you get out of bed in the morning to go to work, why you put so much effort into bringing it to life.

If you are pitching for more business your blog is your most valuable sales tool available and it works for you over and over again. Whilst you sleep, whilst you eat dinner or come up with that new product launch.

And it’s consistent, unlike Don, who like all creative geniuses was an extremely erratic and sometimes tragic figure. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes in the gutter.
But we loved him all the same for his emotion.

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This weeks news that Volusion has sold its most recent project - Mozu, means that they can get back to making their existing product work properly.

We should see many improvements over the next few months as they race to catch up with everything they put on the back burner.

Here's my review summary:

Volusion may be feature packed but what good are loads of features when you can't get support for them? A Forum to provide user support is one of the most basic support options available to a company like Volusion and that it is missing whilst they try to find a solution speaks volumes.

Outdated guides and blogs are a major turn off and the bandwidth overage charges are a relic from the past that they should have got rid of a long time ago.

Template charges at £690 are ridiculously high and the lack of support for payment gateways is bad news for UK users. Plugins for Cardstream, NoChex and others should have been developed a long time ago.

Much better options are available with more reasonable pricing and better third party integration.

Perhaps Volusion may rise again?
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Wix Releases New Mobile App
Is it really possible to manage your online business from a Smartphone? The major players in the online website builder space seem to think so and hot on the heels of new App releases from Shopify and Weebly comes this new mobile App release from Wix.
Personally I think the bold claims that you can run an online store from a Mobile App whilst you sit on the beach and sip Pina Colada all day are a long way off the mark. But there is definitely mileage in being able to administer some portions of your business from a Smartphone and if it makes life easier I'm all for it!
The download is 20MB although software sizes are becoming less and less relevant these days and you'll need to have created a website via a desktop PC to be able to use the App in the first place.
The primary feature of the new Wix App are the notifications it sends you of new events. When you open the App it will show you a feed of all the recent activity on your website. You'll get real time notifications of when customers send you a message (very useful), subscribe to your email newsletter, place an order or make a booking.
The claim is that you'll no longer have to rush to get back to your PC to attend to tasks that can be done “on the run”. Personally trying to do everyday tasks on a tiny Smartphone screen is not how I see it, but I'll concede that getting notifications of when and what events happen on your site is very useful information.
Add Live Chat On The Go
The Wix App will notify you when you have new visitors on your website and let you initiate a conversation with them to help you close the deal. Great for some sites, particularly those that are offering higher ticket sale items, it's sods law that you can sit all day at your PC and then miss the one vital visitor that is important to you. You'll need to have the visitors App installed on your site to make this feature work.
Manage Your Store
You'll be able to see the order flow in real time and manage your orders plus track payments and invoices. Adding products and images can also be done and for some businesses where time is of the essence then this new feature could provide a breakthrough for your business. Imagine being at an auction for example, placing the winning bid and then instantly having the products for sale on your website!
You can always return to them later on a desktop PC if anything needs tidying up.
Creating Blogs
I use One Note to record my ideas when inspiration strikes and I like to use the voice audio record to do it. But creating entire blog posts?
For short product information type posts then this App will be really useful.
Quick Summary
Managing a website becomes more complicated as we find new ways for people to interact with them. With all the immediacy that is demanded of todays webstore owners tools like the Wix App are becoming indispensible. It's another great addition to your business setup.
You don't have to remember your login details either as this App will let you login via Facebook or Google+
A useful tool to have in the e-commerce website builders armoury and yet another good reason why you should pay a monthly fee for your software platform instead of using open source products.
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