Building a Website for Successful Bookselling

by Kent Johnson

#97, 18 June 2007

Part II: On the Internet At Least, Content is Still King

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Building a Website for Successful Bookselling Series

A few years ago, when I was relatively new to the Internet and Internet marketing, I helped a friend put together an outdoor recreation website to sell sporting goods through an online retailer's affiliate program. We spent a considerable amount of time and money on the project, and we were sure it was going to make us boatloads of money as promised by the retailer's slick advertising campaign.

And so we built the site. It looked great, it had dozens of product pages displaying brand-name sporting goods of all shapes and sizes, it had an "about us" page with our bios and photographs. We were convinced it would be like Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams," where "If you build it, they will come." We were already planning new and exciting ways to spend all the money we were sure to make in the months leading up to the Christmas shopping season.

And we waited. And waited. The first month came and went, and we had a grand total of 13 unique visitors to the site, and 0 sales. No problem, we thought, it's a new site; it'll take time for the word to get around. Millions of people were signing up for Internet access around the world every day, after all. Sooner or later a significant portion of them would stop by our site to check out all the great products we had displayed there.

I'm sure you can guess the way the Christmas season went that year. We had a handful of visitors, and two sales, both from family members who took pity on our plight.

Seriously discouraged, we considered pulling the plug on the entire project. We were paying hosting fees, after all, and a monthly charge for credit card processing. We tried buying traffic through the search engines, and we were rewarded with a few sales, but by the time we paid the pay-per-click advertising bill, we barely broke even. Our "Field of Dreams" was looking more and more like an empty cornfield every day.

Not one to take defeat lying down (or seated behind a keyboard), I decided to try and figure this Internet marketing puzzle out. After all, people were spending millions of dollars online every day, so the buyers were out there. I just needed to figure out how those other sites were getting the consistent traffic - and sales - that we were lacking.

And so I scoured the Internet looking for answers. I found lots of marketing "gurus" who would teach me the "magic secrets" of making "$184,673 in two weeks, without doing any work" if I just purchased their $250 information product. Being a believer in the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, my credit card stayed in my wallet.

I was about to give up in disgust when I stumbled onto a company called SiteSell (through a web search on Google, wink-wink) that actually sounded like they knew what they were talking about. Now this isn't intended to be a commercial for SiteSell, and I'm not affiliated with them in any way. But their philosophy is the first one I came across that made sense to me. What they propose is this: that most people searching on the Internet aren't looking to buy things; they're looking for information. And if you become a trusted and reliable source of that information, you'll position yourself as an expert in your field, you'll build valuable relationships with your visitors, and you'll get lots of free search engine traffic (and eventually, lots of sales).

This was a revelation to me. I always assumed you just put up a store website and people would just magically show up and buy what you were selling. The idea of writing articles and putting up free information to entice visitors to come to my website had never occurred to me. But it made sense. After all, I spend a great deal of my own time on the Internet searching for information, so it stood to reason that others did, too. And having already invested the better part of a year and thousands of dollars on my floundering website (by this time my partner had bailed out on the project), I decided to give the concept a try.

>>>>>Click here for page two>>>>

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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