online business

WordPress + WooCommerce: What does it mean?!

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If you run a WordPress site, and you use it to sell stuff, there is a pretty good chance you’ve opted for WooCommerce as your e-commerce solution. With over 7.5 million downloads, 600,000 using the paid version, you aren’t the only one who made the same match. According to WooThemes (the parent company of WooCommerce), WooCommerce powers over 24% of all online retail sites. A top 10 WordPress plugin, it only made sense for Automattic (the owners of WordPress) to scoop it, and the whole WooThemes team, up. Automattic paid more for WooCommerce than any other acquisition they’ve previously been a part of, for a reported $30 Million. They feel e-commerce is a profitable market, and have proved they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. While this won’t mean much for WordPress.com users, the rest of us who use WordPress.org will likely see plenty of changes in the near future. With the acquisition due to be complete in the next month, there has been a lot of speculation about what’s to come.

For those unfamiliar with WooCommerce, here is a brief explanation: it turns your WP site into an online store. You can add, adjust prices, organize, and edit products as needed without much hassle. It’s also great from a payment standpoint, coming fresh out of the box PayPal ready and offering extensions to increase it’s payment method capabilities. WooThemes has also stuffed it with other goodies including inventory management, coupon codes, shipping management, analytics, and other facets necessary for a user to easily run a store. Woo has also included a variety of extensions and themes to make customizing your shop easy.

So what does the Automattic acquisition mean for users in the future? The WordPress + WooCommerce combination should lead for more open source development, flexibility, and integration. A major hope is that this union will bring stability to the connection between WordPress and e-commerce, carrying over into the rest of the plugin offerings as well. The more the two can be integrated, the better they will be as a platform for online sales and growth. As a small online company grows, the hope is they can just expand their sites capabilities rather then look to custom coding to cater to their growing demand. There has also been a lot of user speculation (read: hope) that this means lowered prices for extensions, bundles, and plans. That or a beefed up free version offering things like the shipping extension and styling elements, both of which are currently reserved for pricier plugins.

Aside from the anticipated improvements, WooThemes has promised to continue business as usual for their themes and plugins (including WooCommerce.) The biggest difference  is they will now have the support and access to Automattic’s resources, including their manpower and technology. Feel free to watch Matt’s announcement video below.

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AdWords Certification Tips

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Recently I had the pleasure of going through Google’s certification process for AdWords. I passed. However, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s not that the material is hard to grasp or that the test itself is difficult. No, the main problem I found with the AdWords certification process is sifting through the seemingly endless amount of information in the study guides and figuring out what Google really wants you to know. I spent the better part of three weeks reading through the study guides that Google provides, reading books on AdWords, and using a paid online resource for question banks and mock exams to prepare for both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam. The truth is I could probably have done it in half the time if I knew some of the things I know now. I want to now share with you some of the insights I gained while going through this process in the hopes it may be able to help you become certified quicker and more efficiently.

Skim through the Google Study Guides

If I had tried to pass the exams just by reading the study guides, I am almost positive that I would have failed. It’s true that ALL of the information you need to pass the test lay within these study guides. However, they are mind numbingly boring and very hard to decipher what the big take-aways are from each entry. I read these word for word, sometimes literally falling asleep at my computer, and when I was done I struggled to look back on what I read and say what it was that I actually learned and retained.

If I were to do it over again, I would skim through each section and try to pull out the main ideas (which I said is already hard) if I can. But I definitely wouldn’t read it word for word. To take notes, I wrote down things in a spiral notebook and took screen shots of things in the study guides for reference later. I suggest doing something along these lines. Oh, and you will probably read lots of other people out there telling you to not only read every word but to watch every video too. Don’t bother. Everything covered in the videos are covered in the text, and most of it is useless.

Don’t buy any AdWords books… yet.

I bought a copy of Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and spent a few days reading that cover to cover. While it is a great book for someone starting out in AdWords and contains some great advice, books like these aren’t going to help you pass the exam. In fact, they are just going to serve as a distraction to you if your main goal is to get certified as quickly as possible. Hold off on buying a book like this until after your certification.

Pony up for iPass Exam (and jump right in!)

iPass Exam is the paid resource I used to study. While the English is a little off at times, some questions are extremely poorly worded, and you have to pay for it, the service does a pretty good job of delivering exactly what you need to know for the exam. In fact, I am fairly certain that if I had just jumped in and started studying off of this, I could have passed the exams just as easily as I did with all the extra studying I did. Make sure you are good about writing down the answer to every question you get wrong. Then go back and test yourself on it again. If you are passing the practice exams on iPass you are probably ready for the real test.

The real test is not as hard as the practice tests you may be taking

I was getting low 80%’s on my practice tests. I got 96% on both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam (no big deal). In the real test, there are a lot of questions addressing the same topics, and the questions are worded so you can VERY easily eliminate two or three answers from each question. Overall, the test really isn’t that hard.

With all that said, keep in mind you still need to put some time in to study. If you don’t pass the first time, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you can take the exam again so just put in the study time the first time. Take plenty of notes from questions you miss off of practice exams and question banks and utilize the screen shot to capture pictures of tables and guidelines that Google provides off the study guides. Overall, don’t stress. It’s way more manageable than the study guides make the test out to be.

 

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Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 3

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In parts one and two of Building a Successful eCommerce site, we talked about location and design, respectively. Those two aspects of eCommerce sites and brick and mortar stores are fundamental to success throughout the life of the business, but even if both those aspects are stellar the business may not succeed long enough to matter. Enter promotion.

First off, don’t confuse promotion for marketing. Marketing is something you should be engaging in at all times, through the life of the business to build and reinforce your brand. Promotion is a specific marketing campaign, in this case, geared towards promoting your new eCommerce site. It’s one of those “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon” kind of things.

Business owners often understand the need to promote their new brick and mortar store but for some reason believe that the internet is a magical place that people instinctively know to flock to their new site. There are some familiar ways that people promote new brick and mortar stores like hanging a sign, doing a PR outreach to local publications, and hosted events. Each one of those promotional tactics has an eCommerce equivalent that is easy to do.

 Signage = Electronic ad space or splash page

A Nordstrom Rack recently opened in Columbus. Everyone knew it was coming months in advance because Nordstrom bought significant amounts of ad space on billboards and park benches downtown and elsewhere (some of which are still up). It sparked high levels of anticipation and word-of-mouth marketing. The same thing can be done online. Do your research to find out where people would be excited to hear about your store. Check specific facebook (or other social media) groups, search terms applicable to your product or service, and popular blogs.

Since most ads on the internet are pay-per-click you need to give them somewhere to go. That is going to be your splash page. It’s the equivalent of hanging your banner on the fence outside your brick and mortar store that is containing the construction going on. Make sure your splash page has some information about an opening and a place to opt for an e-mail communication.

 PR Outreach = Blogger & eMagazine Campaign

A press release is often sent out to local print publications about an upcoming brick and mortar store generating curiosity and buzz in the local community. On the web, you want to focus on bloggers, podcasters, and eMagazines to do much of the same thing. Reach out to them and offer a sample of an early product. See what it take to be a part of their content. Keep in mind most bloggers and magazines plan their content out very far in advance so you may not get in right away but planting that seed for a traffic pop down the line could pay off dividends for you.

 Parties & Events = Social Media Contests or Give Aways

Brick and mortar stores usually have some sort of grand kick-off party, sale, or giveaway. It is a great way to open your store to big crowds and generate word of mouth. These things usually include an offer of some kind although it doesn’t have to. Restaurants do it with practice nights where they give away free food to friends and family. Some stores offer big savings to their first customers. You can achieve the same thing with eCommerce stores with a focus on social media. Try doing a social media contest. Raffle Copter can be a great tool. Or maybe put an opening day discount code and share it on some Facebook ads. Social media can be a very powerful tool, but if you are waiting until opening day to start building your audience you have planned very poorly.

Building a successful eCommerce shop is a complex undertaking but the rewards for doing it right are infinite. If most people approach their eCommerce shop with the same considerations as building a brick and mortar store; good location, great design, and efficient promotion the chances of success are in your favor.

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A Product of Craftsmanship

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Were pretty big fans of beer here at Shout Out Studio. Recently we were fortunate enough to do a collaboration on our own beer with local brewery, Seventh Sons Brewing, here in Columbus. It got us thinking. Craft beer isn’t the only thing now a days being made in small batches by talented craftsmen. Here is a list of some our favorite companies crafting incredible things:

Luke Pierce

Expert craftsmanship comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms of physical states (solids, liquids, and I guess I don’t know of any artisan gases yet but keep me posted). One brand that I use every day and admire their design, level of craftsmanship and innovativeness comes in the shape of a wallet. zerOz was started by a guy with decades of product design experience, who was one day inspired to create a better wallet.

What I love about these wallets is that they aren’t your typical wallets. They are designed to complement a minimalist lifestyle as it encourages you to rid yourself of month old receipts, rewards cards you use once a year and anything else that is dragging you down. Each one is made by hand in their design studio from a variety of Italian leathers that make up the look and feel of the wallet while they use recycled materials to give it structure. The innovation comes in the way the wallet functions. The wallet is like a card-shaped cylinder with no top or bottom, the cards are meant to slide in and out in the same way you slide a new DVD out of its outer cardboard sleeve and it also has a strap on the back to hold cash. The wallet is an old product, but it is exciting to see new life breathed into it by someone with the expertise to do so.

It’s people and brands like this that make me excited to think of the possibilities when people apply their unique expertise and level of skill to craft new products for all of us to enjoy. There are a lot of talented people out there, I hope they too are inspired to go forth and craft something for us all!

Gretchen Ardizzone

As someone who was taught to sew at a very young age by my grandmother, I have a great appreciation for the skill, patience, and attention to detail that goes into making something from hand. One Columbus retailer who caught my eye several years ago for their craftsmanship is Substance. The women’s apparel and accessories retailer offer a curated collection of name brand and local artisan products, as well as designs and produce their own collections. In fact, you’ll often see them making the pieces right there in the store. In support of fostering new talent, the second floor of the space also provides a place for up-and-coming independent designers to showcase their work.

Not only does Substance embrace the craft of making a piece by hand, but they’re sharing that with their customers. The brand offers Design Lab workshops which allow individuals at all skill levels the opportunity to explore their creative abilities working side by side with designers to create a one-of-a-kind piece.

If craftsmanship is an important element of what makes your brand unique, make sure your customers see that online as well. Use Instagram to share the raw materials and fabrics of your product or short video of a piece in production, or consider Pinterest to share your brand’s inspiration or DIY ideas for the creative type. The purpose is to utilize the online environment as an extension of your customers and followers to tell those stories that matter to your brand and are relevant to them.

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What's In a Name

What’s In a Name?

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Some things to think about when naming your business

What’s in a name? Well, it sure meant a lot to Romeo and Juliet but does it have to be a life or death decision for your business?

Not exactly.

It should be a piece of your brand’s overall strategy and it shouldn’t be something that you take lightly. A name is often the first thing you decide on when starting your company and it’s almost always the first impression your potential clients are subjected to.

How will it stand up?

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A Plea to Get Your Business Online

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I’m here to help your business, so I wanted to make a simple plea.

Please use the internet to reach your audience. For your own sake… please…..

Millions and millions of folks across the country are logging in every day. Folks sitting in their cubicle are surfing the web while they’re supposed to be working. Retired grandparents are sitting at home reading Facebook on their iPad. Anyone under 30 is trying to look you up on their iPhone (hopefully not while they’re driving) or asking their Twitter friends for recommendations on businesses that do exactly what you do. read more

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