I have 4-5 nutritional products I want to market. Is it worth getting a Yahoo! Store solely for the traffic from Yahoo! Shopping or if I should just set up 4 or 5 separate e-commerce sites and drive traffic to them through Pay-Per-Click ads (Google Adwords, Overture, or Findwhat), other links, or by buying ezine ads / writing articles?

For me, Yahoo! Shopping is only the beginning of INTERNET MARKETING. If you sell products that appeal to a broad range of consumers, you can benefit. If your prices are extremely competitive and you give great service, you can do rather well.

Take a look at the Yahoo! Store PAGEVIEWS graph above. This store had been in Yahoo! Shopping for almost a year before this graph.

The store also has had a 5-Star Rating for well over a year, but got little or no traffic or sales from Yahoo Shopping. I think it was a combination of poor Yahoo! Store design and bad item names. The folks who did click through from Yahoo! Shopping either couldn't navigate the store or didn't have faith in the company because of the look of the store.

First, we did a complete redesign, switching to custom RTML templates so we could have global section navigation using search engine friendly text links. Then we fixed the names in the product database.

YAHOO SHOPPING SALES BUMP -- The first bump in traffic came from Yahoo! Shopping after optimizing the product names to include keywords in the name field. Instead of "MODEL #1234" we would use "MANUFACTURER NAME - MODEL NAME #1234 DESCRIPTIVE ADJECTIVE NOUN."

The second bump is when Google picked up the changes driving sales from Google, Yahoo!(Google database), and AOL (Google database).

The third bump is me buying Google Adwords in the slowest part of the year for this particular retailer. We're paying 6-cents a click. Don't tell the competition.

Yahoo Shopping - What's the Big Deal?

Yahoo! Shopping is the shopping portal of Yahoo.com. It's a collection of 22,000 Yahoo Stores (with literally millions of products) and around 500 FEATURED MERCHANTS who pay up to $250,000 a year to be included in Yahoo! Shopping's RMI program.

But is it a Yahoo Store? - Just because a company is in Yahoo! Shopping, doesn't mean they are using the Yahoo Store software. You can tell by adding something to your shopping cart and looking at the URL for something like http://order.store.yahoo.net/webstore-design/cgi-bin/wg-order?unique=f6140&catalog=ACCOUNTNAME&et=3f4f6848&basket=5Cd2e188d8010e583

Yahoo Stores can opt into Y!Shopping for less than $250,000 by paying Y! 4% of Yahoo! Shopping-generated sales. You'll need at least 20-30 orders with positive experiences to get any chance at selling anything because of the way Shopping Searches rankings are weighted by customer service ratings.

You must have a 5-Star Customer Service Rating to compete and rank high in Yahoo! Shopping. It seems to take 100 orders or so because most folks do NOT rate you. There are ways to get customers to rate you (or re-rate you faster - beg, bribe, cajole), but it takes forever. And as long as you don't have a 5-Star Yahoo! Shopping Customer Service Rating, you'll never rank high enough to get enough traffic to get enough sales to get enough positive ratings. Make sense?

Most of my Yahoo! Store clients get 5-10% of their sales from Yahoo! Shopping (which costs 4% of sales), but the majority of their sales come from ORGANIC TRAFFIC (free search engine traffic like Google/Yahoo!/AOL) or DIRECTORY LISTINGS (Yahoo!, Looksmart, DMOZ), or Pay-Per-Click advertising like GOOGLE ADWORDS or OVERTURE, or external links from other sites.

Yahoo Shopping alone is NOT ENOUGH. I had a client who had a successful non-Yahoo! Store and we copied the store into his Yahoo! Store but did NOT have a unique domain.

There were NO external links, and since the Yahoo Store looked EXACTLY like his "real" store, all the directories considered it a MIRROR SITE, so he got no links. If it were up to me, I would have rebranded the site as a different site, focused the Yahoo! Store on a niche within his business, picked a domain name, and marketed the site like it was a stand-alone e-commerce site: YAHOO DIRECTORY LISTINGS, ZEAL / LOOKSMART listings, DMOZ submission (as long as he had unique content), and use then a combination of SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION techniques and PAY-PER-CLICK marketing buys to drive traffic to the web store.

FEATURED MERCHANTS (both Yahoo! Stores and non-Yahoo! Store companies) get a boost in their rankings because they pay Yahoo! Shopping for ads & prominent placement. I've heard this costs anywhere from $10,000.00 a month on up, but contact Y!Shopping for details.

I've seen several clients try FEATURED MERCHANT (several years ago), but we could never prove the ads were worth the cost. Lots of impressions, and lots of traffic, but these folks didn't convert at a rate where my client could make money. If you have high margins, take a look at it...

The rest of the search results are ranked by a combination of relevancy determined by whether or not your ITEM NAME, CAPTION, and ID contain the keywords folks are looking for. I've seen folks rate better when the keywords are within the first paragraph of text.

I've also heard that 80% of the folks who use Yahoo! Shopping use the SHOPPING SEARCH over the DIRECTORY structure, so making your product names Yahoo! Shopping Friendly is pretty important.

Like I said before, Yahoo! Shopping is only the beginning of INTERNET MARKETING, but if you sell products that appeal to a broad range of consumers, if your prices are extremely competitive and you give great service, you can do make some dough.

-- Rob Snell