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Tess’ Niche E-Commerce Experiment

Okay, so Nathan told you about his little experiment last week. Now I can tell you about mine. I’m going to be a little more traditional in my approach, but there are still a few differences that I want to experiment with. The big different with Nathan and I is that he likes ‘shiny new objects’ and I like to stick with what I know, changing things to move with the times/trends. Both have their pro’s and con’s, which is what makes us such a good team.

One of the issues that I’m concerned with about Nathan’s experiment is that it is not targeting direct product keywords, which is something I will still definitely be doing.

Firstly, my keyword is low competition (of course – that’s non-negotiable in any new site that we setup), but it is a direct product keyword. I realise that this will be harder to rank for than Nathan’s keywords perhaps, but I should get a higher conversion rate than he does, once I (hopefully) rank the site.

The “Ultra-cheap” Experiment

Part of our system is keeping your costs down as much as possible while you try and get enough traffic to the site. Traditionally this has meant using something like Shopify to start with (instead of commissioning a full e-commerce system for yourself), and using samples to fill out your initial range. This still costs money though, and I’m always trying to reduce that as much as possible. So my experiment is about reducing these costs to almost zero. If we can do this successfully, it means we (and you) will be able to start several sites at once, which massively increases your chances of success online.

No Product

We know that it is usually illegal to promote products that you don’t actually have (although you can dropship products, so as long as you have a reasonable expectation of being able to source the product, that’s okay). Of course, there’s nothing illegal about having product listings on your site that are out of stock, and/or “coming soon”. Basically my shop is under construction and is being built meaning it will be ‘coming soon’! I’m a great believer that Google is really pushing to promote e-commerce sites for product specific keywords. If someone searches for “door handles”, there’s a very good chance they want to see sites that sell door handles. Google knows this, and is actively trying (not always succeeding mind you…) to promote e-commerce sites.

As such, I want to produce a site that still “looks” like an e-commerce site to Google, yet all of the products are posted as “coming soon” until such times as the site start producing traffic. So what “products” will I be putting up? Well, I have sourced many products on Aliexpress.com before, so I have found quite a few suppliers that have really good ratings, and are able to send one of each item when I order them. So I am writing (not copying) really good original descriptions of these products, but just using a “coming soon” image. This way, if somebody does actually enquire about a product, we can source it for them, and when we start getting enough traffic to the site, I won’t actually have to change much – just bring the products in and get the photos up. In theory anyway!

One problem with not having products in stock is that we can’t list them on comparison shopping sites, which is normally where we get the early sales from while we’re waiting for those Google rankings. The sales aren’t significant though (not enough to make a store worthwhile normally), as the real sales come with natural search traffic. I think the sacrifice is worth it if it means we then have the ability to easily and cheaply start several sites at once.

Free E-Commerce Site

The next step is to use a free e-commerce platform. We do have our own platform that we could use, but this cost us several thousand to produce to our requirements, and we wanted to see if there was a cheaper solution that was close to being as good, as we know this is a stumbling block for many people.

In the past we had experimented with various free solutions, but everything came up too short of where we needed it to be. They were too buggy, lacked features, or were bad for SEO purposes. Recently though I re-visited Woocommerce, which is a free plugin for WordPress. We gave it another shot, and were very impressed. So impressed, that we are starting to conduct some pretty serious experiments with it, of which this is one.

The other benefits to using this platform, is that it is easily updateable and easily customisable. In fact it is so much fun that you can waste hours, if not days, exploring different theme’s, layouts and colours. With our current platform, it’s not that easy to change the look of our site depending upon the product type. Some of our new e-commerce sites coming online are single SKU sites, and our platform is really designed for many SKUs. Different product lines would benefit from different branding as well, which can often mean they’re more suited to different site structures. Again, this is not easy to do with our current platform (without involving programmers), but super easy easy to do with WordPress and a good Woocommerce theme.

Content Strategy

Not only will I be filling the site with products, I’m also going to produce 15-20 good, well written articles surrounding the product, using my keyword map as a base. The content will be interlinked, and refer back to my product listings, and vice versa. Because the platform is WordPress, it is super easy to add content. While I personally wrote my main 1000 word article targeting my keyword, I have outsourced all my other articles. This may seem like a waste of your start-up budget, but trust me it is worth the money. The brain space it takes to write 15-20 articles (all over 500 words), all based around the same keyword but varying greatly from one another as well as not being over optimised……you get the point!

SEO Strategy

SEO is where I am a little bit weak, and unfortunately I still don’t have a solid strategy in place as of yet. I will still do our “basic links” like Nathan discussed in his experiment article, as well as do some Web 2.0 articles, but from there I’m going to adopt a bit of a wait and see approach. Because we’re simultaneously conducting some other SEO experiments with 3 different SEO companies, I might wait to see how they play out before I decide to outsource or go it alone and do some work myself. I’ll also be using Google Alerts to let me know about people who are discussing my niche in forums, so that I can get involved in different niche related communities. You might find it odd that I am not concerned over my SEO strategy, but the important thing to remember is that if you go too hard too quickly you can damage your site’s reputation with Google to point of no return. I would rather ‘wait and see’ for a few more months over the later.

Pros And Cons To My Experiment

Pros
  • Go with what you know! My keywords, domain, and competition strategies are all based on a previously successful site, so I should be good from that side of things;
  • Still product based keywords;
  • Super cheap! With no product, and no site costs, as well as it being hosted on one of our hostgator shared accounts, the site will initially only cost the price of the domain name and the content (which if you are happy to write yourself, you wont incur).
Cons
  • My SEO strategy is a bit weak at the moment, so that could slow things down;
  • Will the WordPress/Woocommerce platform let me down? It’s still a largely untested platform for us, so we’ll have to wait and see;
  • No products in stock means that we can’t list the products on comparison shopping sites, which is where we normally get our early sales.

So what do you think? Are there any areas you’d like me to get into further? Would you like to know how we set up the WordPress/Woocommerce platform? Let us know by sending us an email or using the comment section below, as we’d love to get your input.

4 comments

  1. Hi Tess. I was up and researching ideas for my newest venture and I came across your blog. Im in the process of starting out a niche e-commerce B2B business. It’s similiar to my overall niche B2B category, but it’s something that just about every business needs no matter the size. I am going to run an experiment for 90 days on my idea. i was considering using BigCommerce as a platform but your idea of WordPress with Woo Commerce has piqued my interests. I will be writing a blog post about this soon. I’ll keep you posted on my progress if you keep us posted on yours. Thanks!

    • Hi Sebastian

      We would love you to keep us posted on how your experiment goes. If you have any questions about Woo Commerce just let me know. It really has made a huge difference to our e-commerce sites. I am looking forward to hearing from others, if they get the same results or not.

      Thanks again.

  2. Hey Tess, looks like a good little competition you and Nathan have going. I am using Woocommerce on SoFloat.com and modowest.co.nz and finding it pretty good. There are always seems to be a few little teething issues with trying to run a wordpress ecom site but Woo has been much better than WP ecommerce for me. If you’re not already Use the WordPress for SEO plugin by Joost, it’s brilliant for product keyword targetting.

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for the tip, we’ll definitely look into Joost (currently using “Platinum SEO”). We’re loving Woocommerce at the moment, and it wish it had been around years ago! We haven’t had recent experience with WP ecommerce, as our research indicated that most people seem to agree with you, that WooCommerce is the better choice at the moment.

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