2009 – The Year in Review

December 19, 2009

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I’ve gone through quite a bit of growth in my website this year.  I started my business in December 2008 and I think I’ve grown and learned so much about Internet Enterprise in this year.  This is primarily thanks to seller forums, fellow bloggers, and magazines.

The growth in 2009 has been plentiful but I have so much more growing to do in 2010. I have…

  • changed the store name to be less exclusive to dogs but include cat merchandise as well.
  • closed my cat focused store in the process.  I wasn’t able to give it the focus it needed so I think I’m much better off with the two pet types together in one store.  So many people have a cat and a dog that now people can shop from one store when they are looking for both pets.
  • changed my blog over from blogger to wordpress.  I still need to switch it to be hosted by godaddy so I can install the awesome plug-ins.  That’s on my list of goals for next year.
  • became more active in the blogger community.
  • started blogging more consistently once I moved over the WordPress.
  • set up a fan page on Facebook.
  • joined various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, digg.com, ning.com
  • given Amazon.com a shot with the store.
  • Increased inventory in the store.
  • Advertised on Facebook and MySpace.
  • Ran a contest online.
  • Tried advertising a bit on other sites.
  • Submitted my site to search engines.
  • Decided to remove link partnerships from my store’s website.
  • Started using stock photos in my blog.

I will post goals for 2010 sometime soon.  I’d love to hear anyone else’s goals for 2010!  How did you do in 2009… about what you expected, above expectations, below expectations?  Do you know why you did well or not so well?

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Picture This!

December 13, 2009

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I’ve started adding pictures to my blog.  I love this feature of my blog… and others’ blogs.  Before I started a blog, I didn’t think about it but I’m betting that I am more likely to read a blog if it has a picture.  At least on a boring page.  And since I can’t install plug-ins yet, I think this is a great way to liven up the site.  The first site I’ve been using that allows you to download and use their photos on your own site is Stock Exchng.  There are many others if you just enter ‘blog free photos.’  There are MANY free sites out there offering free membership and free photos.  Stock Exchng is one such company.  Sign up for a FREE account.  After verifying your email you are good to begin downloading pictures immediately.  There are some pictures on the site that have a translucent logo on top of the picture.  Those I haven’t used and I don’t think I will.  It just doesn’t look professional in my opinion.

Do YOU use pictures on your blog?  What site do you use?  What is your first impression of sites that use pictures in their blog… does it impact your opinion at all?

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December 13, 2009

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As I was working on the wordpress conversion I spoke about yesterday I was on godaddy.com I noticed I had credits for advertising on google.com, facebook, and myspace.  Does myspace still exist??  OK maybe I shouldn’t knock them.  Anyhow, I set up adds for all 3.  Not a smooth road with Google though.  I go through setting up my add.  Then they tell me I will be charged a NON-REFUNDABLE $5 to start up my account.  OK whatever.  BS but I’ll do it.  So I click “next” or whatever.  Then I’m asked to enter my coupon code.  Note I already gave them the NON-REFUNDABLE $5.  THEN I find out my coupon code I got from godaddy is useless because I’ve had my google account too long.  OK granted it may have said something about that in some terms somewhere, but it’s google… what kind of terms could they have that I don’t agree with?  I click ok to the terms early on without reading them.  So now I’m not advertising on expensive Google and $5 has gone up in flames.   I did successfully use my coupon codes on Myspace and Facebook so HA to Google.  Still irritates me.  You know they do that intentionally to “get” people like me.  Go BING!

WordPress.com change to WordPress.org

December 11, 2009

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For the past few days I’ve been trying to get my .com over to .org being hosted by godaddy.com.  So I think I’m half way through the process.  I have been using tutorials throughout the internet.  Some help more than others.  These instructions are in blogs.  What I find fascinating is I seem to be the only one with a problem converting.  Ugh!  I really want to be able to install plug-ins but I am STUCK.  And I was looking at a plug-in installation process and that doesn’t seem all that easy either.  So I think I’ll just take a couple days away from trying.  Then I can come back to it with a fresh mind.

dog slippers for humans

Dog Slippers for Humans

In the mean time I’ve been filling lots of orders over at Your Pet Store With More.  Customers LOVE the dog slippers for humans that I have.  They are awesome!  They are adorable AND are so comfortable.  Check out the features…

* Nylon Tricot (which the foot rests on )

* Eva Foam

* Polyurethane foam

* Polyester Tricot

* Stippled PVC dots on the bottom of each slipper to provide traction.

On top of all that… the heads turn around. They are just too cute. EVERYONE needs slippers at Christmas time right? Why not these adorable slippers?

Blog Accountability

December 5, 2009

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So I’ve been looking through the blogosphere to find interesting blog articles that I can learn from.  I came upon Beginner Blogger who talks about being accountable for your blogging.   He posed interesting questions that I thought would make a great post here on Your Pet Store Blog.

  • So how do you keep yourself under pressure in the blogging world to make sure you get things done?

In the back of my mind I know my blog won’t be noticed if I don’t keep it updated.  Google won’t care about it and people won’t subscribe.  I’m using the blog to help my business and with that I would LOVE to become a stay-at-home mom.  That very desire is what motivates so much of what I do in life.

  • Are you currently working ‘for the man’?

I am currently working ‘for the man’ and would love to be working for myself and more importantly my 2 children.  I want to create a warm loving home where my kids can know I’ll be home when they come home from school.  I want them to remember that about me… not that dad picked up mom from work everyday.

  • How much time do you get to spend on your blog?

Writing a blog, I’ll probably spend 3 hours a week on my blog.  If you mean writing and marketing the blog, I would say 6 hours.  That extra time is spent looking at other people’s blogs, commenting, and hoping they do the same for me.

I enjoy blogging and plan to stay accountable.  What about you?

Engage Your Blog

December 2, 2009

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I hope everyone had an outstanding Thanksgiving holiday! The holiday shopping season has officially begun.  Christmas sure is coming up fast!  Sales have picked up a bit in Your Pet Store With More as well which is always a pleasure to see.

I’ve been pretty busy posting new products on the website and finding new resources to help us all better our business.

I’ve been using the Google blog finder to find interesting blogs and it has led to reading a lot of great blogs AND getting great resources from those blogs.  The most recent is from Ms. Ileane Speaks.  I really can’t say enough about this blog.  She always has great resources and even does video demos.  The most recent find by Ileane was Blog Engage.  This is a community of bloggers.  A great place to find great blogs.  How does it work?

  1. I joined last night, added one article link and already increased my blog hits today.  What you do is one by one submit your blog articles by entering a brief description and the URL for the article.
  2. People will click on your blog link if your description entices them to do so.  The link will open in a new window.
  3. When the person is done reading the article your hope is that they vote for you and/or leave a comment.  Comments are great in terms of increasing your presence on the internet.
  4. Read and comment on others blog articles.  This will help you find other resources that may benefit your business, allow you to get a meaningful links out there for your website, and help others that may in turn reciprocate.

There are some other notable features:

  1. Click on the Story tab at the top of any page and you’ll receive a list of the most popular tags.  There you can choose a topic you’d like to check out.  I used this feature because I wanted to see what was out there.  Maybe something I hadn’t thought to look for but would love to read about.
  2. You can also enter a search phrase in the search box if there is a particular topic you know you want to read about.
  3. The Live Feeds tab shows you the new blogs being submitted.  So if you’d like to review more current submissions that would be the place to stop.
  4. Your Groups allows you to join like minded groups to share ideas with.
  5. There is a Make Money tab but to be honest with you I’m not interested in that tab so you’ll have to check that out if you want to make money with your blog.
  6. Cool Sites tab… you can add your site here.  Just need to follow three really easy steps.

Of course I can’t mention all of the features here, but I hope I’ve made enough points for you to give Blog Engage a try.

Submit Articles

November 24, 2009

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As promised I want to discuss submitting articles to websites.  The one I have started with… yes, I actually started today.  I added one of my articles about Grieving Your Pet to GoArticles.com.  Why submit articles?  The hope is that people will use my article on their site and obey the rules and post my link for my store in when they post the story.  That will give me a new incoming link and a new opportunity to be found by customers AND search engine crawlers.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, you want to get as many of your links out there as possible.  GoArticles.com provides the opportunity for that.

Other Features of Go Articles:

  • People are able to subscribe to authors.  If you’re an excellent writer or if you talk about topics that people are interested in, you may gain a loyal following.
  • There are various methods of bookmarking the article that the website provides buttons for.
  • People can vote for your articles.
  • You can receive RSS feeds to watch for particular topics.  I’ll sign up for feeds on pet topics.
  • There is a count called “requests” that shows how many times your article was read either on their site or someone wanted a copy sent to them via email.
  • The database is very easy to navigate.

Exciting New Feature

November 23, 2009

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Sheila pointed me to GoArticles a couple days ago so I got to thinking… see… me getting side tracked again.  She recommends I submit my articles there and I come out of the suggestion with a completely different idea.  Although I still want to submit my articles… I’ll come back to that idea.

I’ve been told that customers care about themselves.  They want their problems solved.  They don’t want to hear your sales pitch unless it helps them solve their problem.  Makes sense.  As a result of this I’ve developed a new feature on Your Pet Store With More

My Plan: Each week I will post a new article I’ve found on GoArticles.  This will be an article that I hope is informative and possibly helpful to people visiting my site.  I want to make 10 articles available for download if people wish or they can come back to view the new article each week. I also want to ask the customers to send the article to a friend.  That might be done with the tell & share button, but I might work on something else. Just have to figure out how to do it.

My goal with this action:

  1. Become a source for information and help to site visitors.
  2. Gives customers a reason to come back to my site.
  3. Asking people to click on a button creates a “call to action,” which is a potential lead.  I’ve also added a survey at the end of the article where customers have the choice to provide their email.
  4. Another call to action is having people provide their email for the 10 free articles all at once.  Both of the opportunities to obtain email addresses open the door for me to gain a lead and a possible future customer.
  5. I would like referrals from customers in the form of them forwarding articles onto their friends that may benefit from an article or two or three.

Why GoArticles? Although I do enjoy writing, the time it would take me to research and write these articles would be taken away from developing and marketing my website.  The articles are free so that was even more of an incentive to go this route.  If you choose GoArticles just remember that you can’t alter the article.  You must keep any links and references to the author.  Basically copy and paste and that’s it.  To have as few outside links on my site as possible is another reason I decided to only post one article per week rather than posting a ton of articles.  In addition that gave me the opportunity to create the call of action for people to request the 10 article download.

I still want to discuss SUBMITTING my articles which is where this idea all started.  I’ll do that tomorrow.

So Much to Do With So Little Time

November 19, 2009

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Like most people, I could really use an extra 8 hours in my day.  I have a 40 hour a week job, two kids (ages 4 and 5), and I’m trying to get my website going successfully enough to become a stay-at-home mom.  So that leaves me only 2 hours a day or so to work on the website.  This includes marketing, adding products, and occassionally looking for new suppliers.

Marketing has been the most challenging.  Once the store is set up I add items once a week then I can leave it to only having to fill orders with the remaining “site” related time.  When looked at piece by piece marketing isn’t terribly challenging.  The part that is most challenging for me is how to split my time.  There are SOOOO many marketing tools and strategies out there that it’s difficult to choose what I will do in any given night.  I’m always researching ways to market my site because the different methods are so interesting.

I am constantly getting sidetracked when I do start to implement a marketing project.  I’ll be in the middle of working on something then stumble on another strategy.  It’s like I have ADD when I’m in this process.  I’m working diligently along then something else is dangled in front of me like a piece of meat to a lioness.  I can’t just let this steak go and come back to it later.  I need to sniff out the steak and delve into it right away because “that ‘steak’ must be better than the ‘steak’ I’m eating right now.  I’ll come back to steak #1 when I’m done with steak #2.  But what inevitably happens?  I don’t complete steak #2 before steak #3 is dangled in front of me.

So what’s on this seemingly endless list of “things-to-do”?

  • blogging
  • squidoo
  • stumble upon
  • link exchanges
  • commenting on others’ blogs
  • twitter
  • commenting in forums
  • submitting to directories
  • customer newsletters
  • advertising (craigslist, banners, website classifieds)
  • working on SEO strategies
  • writing content/articles for the website
  • submitting articles to other websites
  • Digg
  • follow-up emails to customers (haven’t done many but I’d like to do more)
  • I’ve been wanting to start a contest on my website

Wow!  I thought it just sounded like a lot in my head.  It even LOOKS like a lot.  And that’s all off the top of my head so you can probably double that for all the different things you can do online to promote your business.

So when I’m in these forums and on these blogs because I’m trying to market my website and want to leave comments, what do I do when I find the next “piece of steak?”  Jump on it or save it for later??

What would you do?  Any input would be VERY much appreciated!


Where oh Where are the Blogs

November 18, 2009

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In my recent blog called Link Exchanging The who why what and how I discussed posting comments on blogs to get your links out there.  Where do you find these blogs?  Up until now I would just search on Google with the term “blog” included in my search.  Then today I was introduced to a great resource when I was listening to a webinar on Hubspot.  It’s Google Blogs.  No need to enter the word “blog” in your search here because all you get in your query results are blogs.  Although the title implies you’ll only receive blogspot blogs (Google run blogs) you do receive blogs with no Google affiliation.   

These are better results than I was getting when I just used “blog” in my search.  Why?  Because I was bringing in sites that might not necessarily be blogs, but for some reason they mentioned blogs on their page and they were optimized for the words I used in my search. 

I have found some great sites so far that I not only want to comment on but I also want to receive the RSS feed on.  In my next blog entry I’ll discuss why I use the RSS feed rather than following a blog.