Building a Book Website

by Catherine Petruccione

#65, 27 March 2006

Update: How Did We Do?

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It's been about a year since I wrote a two-part article for BookThink on building a book website (see part I and part II).

I thought it might be of interest to readers to report on how our own website has been faring over its first twelve months.

The site was launched in March of 2005 through Chrislands.

Listed below are our sales figures for the past twelve months. Numbers of books sold are in parentheses.

March, 2005 (2) - $ 124.10
April, 2005 (13) - $763.61
May, 2005 (6) - $272.23
June, 2005 (6) - $234.60
July, 2005 (2) - $28.00
August, 2005 (6) - $174.44
September, 2005 (0) - 0
October, 2005 (7) - $191.00
November, 2005 (7) - $218.87
December, 2005 (9) - $390.35
January, 2006 (3) - $55.50
February, 2006 (3) - $256.00

TOTAL (66) - $2,708.70

Average sale price: $41.04

Total book sales for the same 12-month period from our online inventory (approximately 6,200 books), including sales from, Alibris, Abebooks, Biblio, Choosebooks, and Amazon:

1241 books sold - $25,801.92

Average sale price: $20.79 generated approximately 5% of our total sales and over 10% of our income from sales.

Website costs for the year:

Website hosting @ $19.99/month = $239.88 Domain Registration = $13.50 ProPay registration fee = $59.95 ProPay processing fees = $111.39

Total Costs = $424.72

It is obvious after looking at the numbers above that the major sites are still the mainstay of online book sales income. However, the website has certainly made a contribution and is well beyond the break even point for its first year. The site seems to attract more buyers interested in collectible books (reflected in the higher average sales price). It will be interesting to see if, over time, our website sales increase as on-line book customers develop, hopefully, more confidence in independent seller security, service and guarantees.

There are many free tools available online for checking your website ranking. Here is one example that checks your site's keywords, link popularity, and search engine saturation.

You can even check your site against other sites to see how you compare. By changing your keywords and phrases, adding links, and submitting your site to search engines, you can see whether or not you are heading in the right direction.

From Marketleap:

"Link popularity check is one of the best ways to quantifiably and independently measure your website's online awareness and overall visibility. Simply put, link popularity refers to the total number of links or "votes" that a search engine has found for your website.

"Marketleap has designed this link popularity tool to help website owners find out who is linking to their site, but also to give a useful benchmarking report to quickly show where you stand in comparison to competitors and other major online players."

(On February 17, 2006, for example, our link popularity total was 38.)

"Search Engine Saturation simply refers to the number of pages a given search engine has in its index for your website domain. Not all search engines report this information but enough of them do to create some meaningful benchmarks for your search engine marketing campaigns."

(Our February 17, 2006 total was 4,839. As you can imagine, these reports are more meaningful when you enter urls for similar websites - your ompetitors.)

"Our verification tool checks to see if your site is in the top three pages of a search engine result for a certain keyword. The reason we only check the top 3 pages is because most queries don't go past the 3rd page of search results."

NOTE: Below are listed several different results after playing with the number and type of keywords we listed on our site:

  1. Site to verify:

    Keyword/Phrase: Old Scrolls, Old Scrolls Book Store,, bookstore, search, bookshop, online bookstore, books, book, used books, secondhand books, out of print

    3 Placed within the first 3 pages, out of 7 engines and directories. 4 Not placed within the first 3 pages

    (See improvement below after changing some keywords.)

  2. Site to verify:

    Keyword/Phrase: Old Scrolls Book Store,, first editions, collectible, old books

    5 Placed within the first 3 pages, out of 7 engines and directories. 2 Not placed within the first 3 pages.

The following 5 keywords, therefore, put us on the first 3 pages of all engines and directories: Keyword/Phrase: Old Scrolls Book Store,, first editions, collectible, old books

All of our keywords do not show up in these graphs. You can check any webpage's keywords on any website page by clicking "View" on your toolbar and selecting "Source." You can learn a lot about keywords this way, but of course it wouldn't be productive to copy them. You must tailor your keywords to your store, your book specialty areas and your customer base.

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