Pimp Your Products, Sell More Stuff
>>> Rob Snell's Chicago 2008 Internet Retailer IRCE Presentation --



Rob Snell: How are you all doing? My name is Rob Snell. I am from Mississippi. In 1997 we launched our business on the Yahoo store platform back when it was via Web. The properties that we have on the web will do over 10 million dollars this year in multiple categories. Today I am going to talk about our family business.

All right. A couple of years ago, I took all the experiences that I have had over the past 15 years or so and wrote up this book. It is available on Amazon. I make a dollar if you buy one, so I would appreciate it.

Actually, we are going to be giving away some copies for folks who ask questions? Is that right? OK. We have a couple of copies.

Today I am going to be talking specifically about our dog supply business that my parents started back in 1972 on their dining room table. We started out as a catalogue business using mail order catalogues marketed through advertising and specialty magazines. This was way back in the 70's. I remember putting these catalogues together. That was just one of my dreaded memories of childhood is every year we would have to fold the catalogues, fold the catalogues, and sort the catalogues. It was just a nightmare.

I figured one day I will get out of this. One day I will be able to do something on my own. In 1985 I thought I got out. I was playing in a rock and roll band with my little brother. We were also selling comic books. We were both working the mullets there.

We grew Gun Dog comics, our comic book stores, to five locations across rural Mississippi and we thought we were going to get rich selling funny books until Pet Smart opened up across the street from my parents business.

It was probably 15 years later. By this time, my parents business had grown. They were really successful. But we had heard these horror stories of Pet Smart coming into a market and just totally decimating the local retailers. My mom was like "We have got to do something. We are getting back in the catalogue business again. By that time they had actually gone to a brick and mortar store selling more dog food than hunting dog stuff.

So we went back, we developed the catalogue, and we launched the catalogue, mailed it to our entire list and we only got $5,000 in sales. My mom was freaking out. This was 1996. She was like "What are we going to do? We are going to go out of business."

Growing up poor, that is one of your greatest fears. Joe and I talk about this a lot. It is like "I will never be poor again. I know how that feels." There is nothing like when a big company is threatening your livelihood or your parent's livelihood.

Sometimes you can fight. Sometimes you can run. You can lick your wounds. We just decided to get out of competing directly with the big box retailers and just went on and mama said "Get us online."

So one of the first things I did was I built a website and I wrote a Yahoo directory listing. We started getting a lot of traffic because we were the only person on the Internet who had the manufacturer's name in our Yahoo directory listing. At that time, Yahoo was the major source of search engine traffic. People thought we were the manufacturer.

There was a company that would not sell to my Dad in 1980 because we weren't big enough. Here we are the only people on the entire web in 1997 who would come up when people did searches for this.

We have rocketed to number one or number two or three retailers for this manufacturer now. So they listen to us a little bit now.

We were getting so many catalogue requests from our non-Yahoo store, this was more like a brochure website, and my dad said "You either have to figure out a way to put our products online or shut the website down, because we cannot afford to send these catalogues out because the catalogues didn't convert."

That is when my little brother found Via Web, which got bought by Yahoo, what, in 98? We put our products online. Fortunately we had all that information from our catalogue, so it was real easy for us to copy and paste into the Yahoo store format.

I didn't know anything about HTML. I had tried for a month before to try and figure out a shopping cart. I am not a programmer. I don't know anything about CGI. I am a retailer. I know about retail.

About five years ago, my dad passed away. He was an expert on training dogs, but he did not want to position himself as an expert. He was really humble. He knew more about dogs than anyone I know, but he did not want to say "I am an expert. Listen to me."

I really think that was a mistake. We made one change when my brother became president of the company which immediately increased our conversation rate 20%. We hired a spokes model and we stuck him on the website. That is my baby brother spokes model and that is Ian [sp], his best bird dog.

Sales and conversions went up 20% immediately by taking an editorial position. What I am going to do for the rest of my presentation is kind of walk you through some of the things that we have done; actual tactical things.

Normally, I have got a two day seminar. So I have got 16 hours worth of information I am going to try to cram into the next 120 seconds. Not really.

This is a sample page off of Gundogsupply.com, one of our dog supply sites. We sell all kinds of things. We have got some revenue share deals with retailers where we do the marketing; the same things we have done for the dog supply side of the business for other retailers.

What we do is we take Steve's experience in the field from when he is working the dogs and we try to translate that to the web. I will take him out in the field and we will take a tape recorder and he will explain to me when we are in the truck driving back to the warehouse what he did and why he did that and why this product is good. Sometimes I have just got to lock him in the room and I won't let him out to pee until he finishes his content for the day.

[laughter]

This is how to pimp your products in 60 seconds. I may run over. One of the first things I noticed about Yahoo store is that in that order confirmation email…How many people out there have Yahoo stores? OK, cool.

One of the things Yahoo store does that I haven't seen any other shopping cart do is that when you get the order confirmation as the merchant, it actually says what the refer or the revshare URL…It tells you what the converting keyword is. How many people out there know what keywords are? OK, good. We are advanced here. Thank God.

One of the first things that I noticed is that when I optimized my website for the words that converted, my sales went up. I know that sounds kind of incestuous. A lot of people say "Gosh, if you are already ranking well for those keywords, why optimize for them?"

Well, the secret is you don't really rank as well as you think you do across all the different engines and all the different platforms. What I did is I would take a converting keyword and I would make sure that those words existed on my site.

How many folks out there are buying pay per click ads on Google or Yahoo? All right, the rest of you all need to step up. With my new stores, like half of my revenue is coming from pay per click right now.

When you buy broad match advertising…Like if I bought an ad on the keyword phrase "dog collars". If somebody searched for orange dog collars, my ad would show. The person clicks on my ad, the go to my site, and hopefully they convert.

I now have a converting keyword called orange dog collars. I need to make sure that the words orange dog collars are on my site. Joe, this kind of applies in your situation. If the words are in like a drop down menu, or they have to type it in a field to customize a page, you are not going to rank for your keywords.

So we actually made a page. I am number one on Google right now. If anybody has got internet access you can go check it for orange dog collars, only because I made a special landing page and actually wrote some content up about orange dog collars.

This information is coming from index tools. I have been using index tools for over four years. How many folks out there are using analytics at all? All right, how many folks are using Google analytics? All right. Google analytics is really good and it is free, which is awesome, but you get what you pay for.

Google analytics does not allow you to do segmenting of lists. You have to do all these different profiles or all these different work arounds and hacks. It is beautiful. The interface is awesome. But the thing is, it is a two dimensional analytic tool. It is not three dimensional. You can't do ad hoc reports. You can't drill in if you don't set up a profile the right way.

I went to a Google analytics class about six months ago which sold me on index tools. I was about to shut off index tools. All this information came out of my index tools report. I got 200,000 keywords. 14,000 of those were converting keywords. I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that every single one of those words is on my page because of this methodology I have got of finding a converting keyword and making sure that I have got a page on my site that is optimized for those keywords. If I don't, I add it to a project page. If it makes sense to actually create a piece of content, I create that piece of content. I then go out and buy the same exact phrase on Google Adwords and on Yahoo search marketing.

One of the biggest mistakes I see retailers make is copying and pasting from the manufacturers product descriptions. This drives me insane. You are an idiot if you are just doing this on your site. If you have a data feed from a manufacturer and you are just using their product description and their product captions, Google is going to take the page with the highest page rank and they are going to rank that page. You are in the back of the bus. You are in the data warehouse at the very bottom of the pile. You are not going to get search traffic for this.

This is an example of a product we sell. This is the manufacturer's description. I took the first sentence, and I want to see how many people are actually using this as the description on their website. So I did a search on Google, and I don't know if you guys can read the slide from way back there, but I found over 1,300 retailers using the exact same description. These guys are morons. I love it. It makes it really easy for me to rank better than these guys do.

Hang on. Let's go back. I don't know. Do you guys see gundog supply up in there? Nope, because I am not using that description.

All right. Not only do we rank well because we actually rewrite product descriptions, but we also write editorial content. This is what I was talking about earlier. My dad did not want to offend manufacturers by telling people there are ten different products that could fit your needs but this one is good, this one kind of sucks, this one is not so good, if you are cheap buy this one. The second we started doing that, our conversions immediately jumped 20%. On the sales graph you can actually see it.

We write tons of reviews of products. One of the good things is that the manufacturers that you kind of endorse, they kind of like it. So they get their PR folks to call you and they set up interviews. We got featured in the New York Times back a while ago. If you know me, I am obsessed with links. Well fortunately, we got a link from the New York Times. And if you will notice in there at the bottom of that paragraph you will see Bass Pro Shops and Cabella's, billion dollar companies, they didn't get a link. We did.

One of the other things is if you are using the exact same manufacturer photography on your products, you are going to look like every single store out there with those 1,300 other guys who are just copying and pasting from the manufacturers. What we do is we actually shoot our own product photography now. I got a fancy camera and I got me a little white box where I can put my products in there. What we do is we actually take the manufacturer's information and we kind of make it our own. So this is another way that you can get content.

Once you have rewritten your captions, you can actually mime the manufacturer's content and they have got content all over the place. On the box, you will see over here it looks like they have got bullet points. That information, we will type that up. That is an in store product display. We don't have a store, but we got it so we can get those cards, scan the information, and actually put it on the website.

We take the PDF's that the manufacturers give us and we take that information and put that on the website. We also rewrite it. I am not saying steal anybody's copy. You don't want to violate anybody's copy write, but it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, so do what you will with that. Yahoo does not endorse copy write violation. OK. Is that enough? The lawyers are shocking me with a shock collar right now.

This is one of the Garmin mini sites that they have for this new product that came out last year. This is a flash website. As an e-commerce guy, I hate flash. OK? Search engines hate flash. If search engines hate it, I hate it. There is a ton of content in this website. So we basically stole all of the content out of this website. We went in and typed up all the text. We did screen shots. I mean half the content of my Garmin site is from the content that is in this Flash that Google cannot get to. We put it on our site in wonderful Yahoo store search engine friendly HTML. And these here are some examples.

Pimping ain't easy, but you want to present yourself as an expert. You want to express your opinions about what you sell. You want to tell people what to buy and you want to provide more info than anybody else.

I am a big believer that if you tell people what to buy but give them enough information to where they can make their own decision, if they don't necessarily agree with you, you kind of win both ways.

I spoke at Search Engine Strategies a couple of years ago on a panel called Pimp My Site. For some reason I am turning into the Yahoo store pimp and I am shameless. I would be wearing a big pimp hat if I could fit it in my suitcase.

I have got two days worth of information and most of this stuff that I talk about is at least touched upon in my book. I have got a lot of friends in the search engine optimization community who give me a hard time because they say over dinner I will give away over $5,000 worth of free SEO consulting; what they would charge a Fortune 500 client $5,000 for. I just like to share information with people because a lot of people helped us get to where we are today, and I feel like it my responsibility to share that information with the little guys so the little guys can whoop up on the big guys. Thank you all.

[applause]



Make more money with your online store.

  • How I took one Yahoo Store from $15K a year to over $5 Million+ in sales.
  • How I got $10 million in ADDITIONAL sales by changing ONE THING.
  • How to make your store more Google-friendly for more free SEO traffic.

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