Get your e-store noticed online
A jewelry store owner wonders how small companies can compete online with the Goliaths.
(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I've tried about every method in the books to promote my online jewelry store, but I'm still not seeing sales. It seems like unless you have megabucks for marketing and advertising on the Web, you can't compete with the big online retailers who dominate search engines. What's a startup to do?
-Michelle James, Fort Myers, Fla.
Dear Michelle: While megabucks can buy expensive keywords and domains, a little ingenuity can go a long way on the Internet.
Dan Lynch, the owner of Mattatuck Consulting, an online marketing company based in Trumbull, Conn., advises you not to fret - "a mom and pop can get just as many hits as a big company," he says.
Before you try to hook more shoppers, Lynch suggests that you make sure your website merits the attention.
"A typical mistake made by Web startups is to first pour money into getting traffic," he says. "It's more important to optimize your site first, so that the foundation is there for when you do start getting more viewers."
Once your site is ready, how can you score more hits from search engines?
"A lot of the big players will chase after the bigger keywords, like 'jewelry,' or 'bracelets,'" says Lynch. "Let them have that visibility - focus instead on specific products."
He recommends picking your 10 most popular items, or the ones with the highest profit margins, and using pay-per-click advertising or search optimization techniques for those phrases. Ultimately, says Lynch, specificity will translate to sales: "If someone searches for 'jewelry,' they don't know what they want. If they're looking for a precise type of bracelet, then they're more likely to be a qualified viewer."
Lana Fertelmeister, the founder of Lana Jewelry in Chicago, has seen her web sales soar by getting her high-end designs features in publications including Fortune Small Business. "It doesn't take money to get press," she says. "It takes creativity."
She recommends contacting magazines and blogs to encourage them to feature your products, and generating a database of email addresses to contact regularly. Fertelmeister, whose business now does 25 percent of its sales on its website, has also garnered online attention by getting her jewelry worn by characters on shows such as ABC's Cashmere Mafia.
While primetime television may seem like a bit of a reach, a spike in traffic could be closer than you think. "Jewelry is a tough, competitive world on the internet," Lynch says, "but the web is a great equalizer."