4/15/2008

Using eBay to create an Online Millionaire - a course on the fly

Creating an eBay Online Millionaire - and writing a new online course meanwhile

Of course, all this eBay research is going to mean what I extensively revise my approach to making online millions. Because as I try all these things, I find out new things. While I've researched and written all the different ways to get something going, that hasn't happened for me - mainly due to my own lack of back end. And so the structure which I'm getting through this coaching is where it all comes to play.

The other reason for my slow start was the lack of a Napoleon Hill "BURNING DESIRE" (his emphasis). I've another post to write about this subject, over at my Modern View blog, but suffice to say that until you really get a fire under your own butt, you won't quit sitting on the smoldering logs. People, even me, don't want to move out of their comfort zone.

Means that my mental notes for An Online Millionaire Plan Course (when I get around to it) are changing pretty radically. When you get down to the bottom of this post, you'll see why. But it doesn't change the basics - just puts new light on them, as well as a different emphasis. eBay is just another route to your millions.

Keywords and building your website

Thought I'd pretty much figured all this out, but then I got this nice summary in a recent email I got from Bright Builders (which I've reformatted):
  • Keep your title tag short (8 words or less) and ensure it is compelling.
  • Use the keyword that you are targeting only once in the title.
  • Use a compelling meta description tag. Keep it 10-20 words in length (this text will appear below the title in a search result).
  • Use the keyword phrase just once in the meta description.
  • Use the keyword meta tag, but keep the keywords generic.
  • List five or fewer keyword phrases in the keyword meta tag.
  • Avoid unnecessary meta tags.
  • Build up your viewable content to at least 450 words per page.
  • Use the keywords in the content naturally, so the text flows.
  • Do not keyword-stuff your content, or you may turn off your visitor.
  • Launch a campaign to get links to your site and be consistent with it.

Matt Cutts, senior engineer at Google: "If you create a web page that is well designed, and the content is informative and is exactly what the searcher is looking for, we will do our best to make sure that your page comes up in the top ten. However, don't think that you can just throw up any page or copy content - the text must be original."

It's always the Buyers' Market - Attracting buyers versus shoppers

Peculiar to HammerTap and eBay is that you can see what keywords actually brought buyers to your site - versus shoppers who are "just looking." Buyers are what you want. And buyers already know exactly (or pretty exactly) what they want.

Which brings us to how viewers have evolved along with search engines. Keywords are hot, but keyword phrases tuned to your product are the hottest way you can have to get people right to your auction in eBay. Viewers (especially buyers) are now search engine savvy. They don't just type in "motorcycles", but will enter "Honda 350 All-Terrain". So your long-tail keyword (as if you could still find such a motorcycle) would actually get your buyers. Being tops in "motorcycles" will get you shoppers. Doesn't mean you don't use "Honda 350 All-Terrain motorcycles" if you routinely wind up top in rankings - but realize that bringing more shoppers to your site will increase your traffic, but drop your conversion rate. So shoppers actually just suck your bandwidth and don't pay for it. You want buyers.

HammerTap helps you find buyers because it shows how the keywords are related to sales (and/or lack of them). You can actually research down and find which keywords were associated for top completed auctions for that particular item. And then build your title from those keywords - only.

A point here. Each and every successful auction in eBay (barring a handful of exceptions) only sells long-tail niche items. Buyers buy, shoppers just keep shopping. Buyers are pre-sold. Shoppers are impulse-based. Buyers pay for bandwidth (and hosting fees). Shoppers suck - bandwidth. True, shoppers can be converted to buyers - but let's take the easy route: invest in buyers and shoppers might also show up. (If you invest in shoppers, the inverse isn't necessarily true.)

So your title is simply long-tail niche keywords.

Now this rolls right into everything we've already been covering in An Online Millionaire Plan. The money is in the niches, not in the mega-marts. You can take over search engine real estate for niches, but ignore trying to take over the big (shopper) keywords.

There are apparent exceptions. I was pointed to the term "gavel". And a website owner has that keyword for his site - and was trained though Bright Builders. But look at that keyword. It's a one-word niche. It won't be found under "hammers" or "judges". The guy has a site completely devoted to selling gavels - straight up and deluxe presentation kits.

But when you make a long-tail niche keyword phrase and optimize your landing page around it, then you have buyers only coming to find that item there (or accessories for it).

The strategy with eBay (and how you become an Online Millionaire through this) is to then sell on eBay as a lead generator - and then get reverse funnel buyers to subscribe to your site. You make clients of them (plus the other bidders to your auction).

Build your big site - but do it one product at a time. You don't make money selling only sizzle - people ultimately pay for steaks.

This gives us a sequence. Set your site up with a handy shopping cart - but have single, individual landing pages for each site - which are keyword optimized (including theming) for that long-tail keyword. Every single link on that page is optimized, including all affiliate links to similar products. But unless they are going off your mini-web to an affiliate, don't give them an option to go somewhere else.

(One strategy is to give them a link off site - but have this with a giveaway that they can subscribe to a mailing list to get... before you let them leave - and then send them to a search engine page with your links on it. Idea behind this (not mine, but still clever) is to give them a back button right on your site - but then expose them to more offers, so you are servicing your customer, but it's on your own terms. I suppose you could send them to your list of auctions, which would put them back on eBay...)

Mastering Trends - versus "following the buzz"

"What's hot" is a misnomer. The flame isn't the hot part of a fire - the heat is actually given off by the coals. Following the "hottest trends" is a sure route to ruin. Because this is where everyone is heading with their own marketing.

Recall the datum of Product Life Cycle. At the beginning there isn't a lot of supply, but the demand is increasing. Getting into the market right now will cost you a bit, but there is a lot of money to be made because demand is outstripping supply. At the peak (when it's finally noticed as "hot"), the supply is wide open with lots of distribution points - and profits are thin, mostly in the Big Box stores who already have customers (creatures of habit, remember) who shop there - and buy other stuff while they are "shopping". The third section is where it goes into a niche product. Most people probably already have that product, but will be looking for accessories or spare/replacement parts. (Late adopters are another subject entirely - but another reason to sell after it's "cooled off" a bit. Take advantage of others creating the market for you - it's their advertising dollars, not yours.)

You always, always, always want to find high demand, low supply. These only exist on the two sides of that peak. You don't follow fads and make any money at it.

But trends are not just "what's hot".

Trends have human social reasons for existing. They do not burn out like fads and "hot" items. Trends can be tracked. Fads are a blip on the screen - straight up and straight down.

Christmas sales patterns are repeating trends - as are most holiday-shopping "seasons." These are recurring waves of sales with peaks and valleys. On the Internet, these waves have been getting bigger every year since the Internet started - which can be said for brick-and-mortar sales during the same periods.

[Pure controversial statement: Global temperatures are natural trends, they shift every thirty years or so from hot to colder and back - within the realm of a few degrees. Al Gore and his "prestigious" awards are a fad - and he got those awards after the hottest year on record (1998, per NASA) in the last few decades. ]

Trends drive product sales. You look for trends first and then the products which are part of that trend. Only then can you source for profitable individual items to sell.

Now, environmental awareness is a human trend. And "green" products are becoming more and more common. Stuff made with recycled materials, or use less energy. Or converting to biofuel (like diesels which can run on vegetable oil - not expensive ethanol).

Boomers are a trend. And Europe has a worse boomer problem than the U.S. - their immigration problem is also much worse than ours. Boomers want to retain their health as long as possible with a high disposable income to buy it with. Gen "Y", Gen "X", etc. have differing wants and needs - but they aren't as big a demographic and won't be.

There are eight drives (mostly) for trends:
  • consumer/customer/client wants
  • consumer/customer/client needs
  • lifestyle changes
  • (shifting) demographics
  • new technologies
  • innovations
  • long tail niches
  • economics
Notes on these: Wants are different from actual needs. The old saw is that "we buy what we want and then justify it to be what we needed." Food is a need - "fast food" is a want. New technologies are bringing tons of new products to view - and new versions of old products combined with newer technologies. Any niche you have is splitting as it grows into long-tail niches.

Now you don't have to be trendy or a trendsetter to study and research trends. It doesn't take more than HammerTap and the media you already use to study trends and know what is going on (although once you get the gist of how this is done, you'll start seeing trends in every thing that comes across your lines). And this should be part of your regular research habits.

Here's three trend-spotting websites:
http://www.trendwatching.com
http://www.influxinsights.com
http://www.trendhunter.com
Some of these are "interesting" to say the least - themselves verging toward fads, but these should get your head out of any rut about what you think acceptable trends are.

What you are doing is to set aside your own personal biases and just observer buyers buying. You have to get around whether you think that trend makes sense or not, or whether you'd personally buy it. Forget "what's hot" and look for "what's selling". Just look down your magazine racks and you'll see what is being pushed by advertisers, based on their market research. Also, look for trade publications - find the trade publication for your product by typing in your product (in quotes) and then "+ trade publications".

Once you find how trends are moving, get some sample products (especially as you check through HammerTap) test-market them, and then sell them if they are profitable. Thinking creatively will give you so many more ideas about what could be sold. Checking your percent completed will give you an idea of these. However, note that you might be ahead of the curve and you will have few auctions - so the studies may not support it.

But this is where last year's auctions come in. Look for similar products that have sold in the past and this will give you some idea of how it will perform.

By studying and taking action on the trends you notice, you will actually put yourself a bit ahead of the curve - a very profitable area if you predict it right. What you will notice that these 8 points above will cross-connect to give very long-lasting trends. (New technologies for boomers...) Getting into a product line first will give you great products until that line gets saturated. You can continue selling it as a regular item on your website, but by then your auctions will have new items you are testing and buying by bulk when they do prove out.

Idea here is a simple set of basics:
  • Start trend-watching as a back-of-the-mind habit.
  • Look for products within that trend.
  • Test-market and sell new products for a rising trend. (Or look for accessories or updates to supplement a declining trend.)
  • Trends morph and change - so your trend research and product testing need to be constant in order to maintain maximal profits.
  • Keep an eye out for repeating social trends such as buying seasons. Keep up with the advertising schedules of the Big Box stores. Remember, individuals move faster than the big stores. Be aware, be prepared, and be insanely profitable.

Holiday selling doesn't mean redecorating the trees in the front yard.

Christmas and other holidays repeat their trends (above) and are insanely profitable if you plan for them. By researching last year's shopping statistics, you can expect to improve your preparations for this year's sales. Per report, more and more people are venturing online to shop. One report has it that over 40% of buyers intend to buy something online this year.

Biggest sales days: (in order)
  • Dec 13th, Dec 4th, Dec 11th
Biggest traffic days:
  • Dec 13th, Dec 12th, Dec 11th
Biggest conversion days:
  • Dec 12th, Dec 11th, Dec 13th
Biggest week:
  • Dec 4th - 10th
This doesn't mean you only sell and prepare for Christmas - but you can and should research for sales days (Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day, etc.) which are global or American peak sales points - and then figure out what you can sell.

Once you have a holiday shopping period nailed, you can then look through top categories for 90 days worth of sales through that period. Look for maximal success rates and prices.

You're looking through your analysis to find a few key things:
  • what auction type to use
  • what ending day (and hour) will be best for you
  • how long a listing duration should you use
  • is there a starting price that creates a bidding frenzy
  • keywords which produce the best hooks
  • listing features which work (and ones to avoid)
  • what's the most effective category to put your auction under

All these are answered in the HammerTap program - and I really recommend you study their tutorials from their forum. That's the homework I've been doing for these eBay posts - in addition to everything BrightBuilders has and my own collection of ebooks.

What you do in searching past sales is to take snapshots of three-month and then weekly periods to see how these change over time. Look at the dates above. Now people start shopping for Christmas in October - and don't forget about Black Friday, as well as the shopping after Christmas when there are probably less competitors (who buy the idea that no body sells after Christmas). In short, don't neglect to turn over every rock in your search for the best time to sell.

Your mileage will vary depends on your own research. (And every single item performs differently.) But ny getting these snapshots (and HammerTap saves each report so you can jump between each one), you can see trends. As you keep up such research, you can then find other peak selling periods for your particular item. Again, look for completed sales versus average price. Where there is a high competition, these will change. But through your own analysis, you can find where the peaks and valleys are.

This post shorthands the subject quite a bit. And if you've not seen these forum presentations, then I've got you completely mystified. Once you see the power of this program, you'll be hooked like me. (But I, on the other hand, have already invested in this and have to recoup that investment - so you can see my own necessary excitement in this.)

Another approach is to search through categories to find best-selling categories - then pile through these to find what items in those sold the best last year. Chances are, if they have new items this year, they'll have similar sales potential. (But don't go out and buy a container of these things without doing very thorough research first.


And what does this say for your SEO efforts and your social media promotions?

Frankly, a lot. Ok, so I don't know at this time that when you optimize a sales page using your keywords for eBay that this translates right across to top search engine real estate. But figure this - maybe you don't particularly have to depend on search engines to have people find your site. Get the top for that keyword in StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit - and then have these social networks send you traffic. Maybe you only get shoppers - but on the other hand, if you are consistently setting yourself up as an expert in this area (particularly if you are posting articles and making Squidoo lenses, as well as comment marketing), people will be following you in Twitter and these others in order to see what you are talking about these days.

But you go ahead and social promote every single product sales page you create. Again, your sales page will probably be written as a product review page - and then have a link to your "buy this product now" page. (And wouldn't it be great if you did a comparison page and sold either all of these products or were an affiliate for each one/some of them...)

Why I tell you constantly about social media promotion is that either social media are replacing search engines, or search engines are going to expand their use of social media to find better content to display. Either way, if you aren't on the social media bandwagon, you won't be able to keep up in the profit parade.

But if these eBay keywords are the same - and remember, they are long-tail niche keywords - you are going to get buyers coming to your specific pages to find what they are looking for. And while they are there - they can bookmark your page and sign up for your mail list and become your client.

That's the underlying basic to everything we are covering here. You want to attract buyers who come and spend money on your services (or a company you are an affiliate for).

Again, eBay or not, you'd build your main page first (an ecommerce engine of some sort) and ensure it has a mail list subscription opt-in (and all the necessary analytics connected to it) and then start building individual product pages, which all link in and give link-love to your main page. You are building a mini-net, one product at a time. Now your eBay sales drive business over to your product info page - which sends it to your ecommerce page. As you continue to add products, they build up your page rank and bring you more attention from the search engines. Videos and slidecasts and blog posts and Squidoo lenses will also bring traffic to your product pages. Hopefully, you are attracting buyers in all this traffic.

eBay, then, is a simple reverse-funnel lead generator for mail-list subscribers - which you can then up-sell and cross-sell over and over and over. When you plug this into your existing online marketing structure, you build a devoted and profitable client-base. And that is how you become an Online Millionaire. And any millionaire will tell you that you diversify your income sources - so eBay is only one way to get buyers and subscribers. (Boy, that paragraph would make a nice ebook, wouldn't it...)

Getting your feedback rating up quickly - an investment.

I've run across a simple feedback method - essentially, find low-cost items that are ending soon with no bidders. Search eBay and find:
  • Items with no bids on them.
  • Items that you want!
  • Or, items that NOBODY would likely want (better chance of being the winning bidder!)
  • Dutch Auctions (will usually guarantee you a winning bid)
  • Auctions that are ending soon.
  • Auctions that allow payment via credit card (quick transaction)
  • Sellers with a high rating!
Then, when you buy the item pay immediately - and ask for feedback with your email.

But watch out for high shipping. Don't even bother bidding if they have something far over the normal shipping costs. (Oh - and if you are smart, you can re-auction that item, or give it away as a bonus...)

You do want to get your feedback rating over 50 as fast as you can, which can come from sales or buying - so invest in your feedback and it will do you well.

Note: a little product research can net you some tidy profits by buying cheap on eBay and then turning around to sell it high - based on what you already know in this area. Lots of people buy right on eBay and turn around to sell it. So your investment in feedback can double up when you sell it for a profit.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Question Pages

Here's another tip. If you're selling a lot of something, have a FAQ page which answers all the routine questions. Now you can always tack this onto the bottom of your Review page as well, with in on-page link to that section (and another one there back to the top). If you do a standalone FAQ page, it should be worth your social media promotion - and grab its own search engine real estate, sending its link-love to your main page with a no-follow link back to your sales page for that item.

The efficiency of a FAQ page is to save you time in answering questions. You answer the first question and tell them that there is far more information on the FAQ page. However, by including the FAQ at the bottom of the sales page, you can save yourself the emails.

On the other hand, being able to communicate with your bidders will actually give you a personal contact, the chance you need to build the relationship. And your email signature will give them a chance to see your other sites - as well, sending them to your FAQ page (or back to your "more information page" about that product on your own site, you have a chance to make a direct sale or get them to subscribe to your mail-list (give them a bonus, etc.).

Your credibility and your articles can increase sales

Increasing credibility of your website can be done by hosting your own (or others') articles on your own site. If you can link to articles about this product or related products right on your own site (which then link right back to related sales pages, plus specials) will then tell your customer that they can come to this site for more than just buying a product, but actually how to use that product in their own life. As you do research on this area, you can collect up data and then write 500-700 word articles handling a specific point about that product - with hot links to any product you mention by name.

Oh - and did I tell you that these articles then are social promoted to get you more link-love?

(I wouldn't, however, go so far as to host your own forum, since you have to moderate these to keep out the spammers and riff-raff.)

Other uses for eBay - why become a salesperson.

This gives you an overall experience in selling stuff, becoming a merchandiser. That is all Sam Walton did when he founded Wal-Mart. (His first store was a failure, by the way.) But Wal-Mart is constantly finding the sweet-spot, how many people will buy what at what price. Same as eBay particularly when you use a key research tool like HammerTap.

Our culture currently develops a very low appreciation for salesman in everyone. (Right down there just above lawyers and rocks.) So people simply don't appreciate this very highly-paid tradition and occupation. (See Earl Nightingale's "Strangest Secret".) But as you get over this trained-in aversion, you can then build up your back-end to support this vital, highly-remunerative activity.

That is the essential that I've had to overcome as part of this Online Millionaire Plan. And probably one of the reasons I stuck into my product creation activities instead of building my back end when I started out.

But however you do it, forcing yourself to get in there and sell stuff is good for you. On eBay, it's a bit easier than going door-to-door, since you don't have to meet people face-to-face and can simply do it from a number-crunching aspect through HammerTap.

Now with the proper tools, eBay doesn't have to have a burn-out aspect. Drop shipping and HammerTap take a great deal of the stress out of this area. You want to be efficient with your time and earn the most money from your listings.
  • Not selling (50% of most auctions currently complete with no bids right now) isn't an option you want to have.
  • Having to package and ship stuff personally can get tedious.
  • Spending a great deal of time finding salable items at yard sales and auctions - hoping you can get a good return from them - is a bit stressful and can load up your garage with some very interesting non-moving items.
If you organize and get the proper tools, none of these common aspects of eBay auction work should bring you down.

My key point in this is to get a coaching program to get you over the hump of selling on eBay and helping you build your backend to make it all happen. The program I dropped into, Bright Builders, has a top track record in this area and a website with so many different resources it can fill several CD's with that data.

But it's pricey - which makes you commit to making yourself a success with it. Sure, they guarantee you'll make it all back. Know at the outset, though, that YOU are the one who is going to getting that work done.

Once you've swallowed that pill of getting yourself to sell to make back the money you just loaded up your credit card with - then you can make some forward progress.

And that's why I recommend it.

Is all eBay sales this number-crunching effort?

No. And you don't have to be an accountant to succeed in what you're doing. But my enthusiasm for HammerTap is that anyone can now find exactly what sales, what time to sell it, what keywords to use, what hour to sell it, how long to sell it for, what special mark-ups work and which don't, etc. etc. etc. You just can't get this data to this degree and quality by looking up completed sales on Ebay and then guessing.

So get a bit twisty in this and get some real analysis going. Sure HammerTap costs by the month. But then - if you're making monthly income, it tends to pay far beyond your monthly investment, doesn't it?

It's the road to power selling - and their own studies show that existing power sellers have improved their own sales by 40%, while cutting their listings by 50% - making more money with less time. Neat.

- - - -

What's next?

I've basically exhausted all the stuff in my library and the forums at this point. Now I need to practice and put all this stuff to use. I'll also be getting into my own website and posting some stuff shortly (today) in order to have a rudimentary site ready to send my clients to.

That's what you can look forward to in my next post...
Post a Comment