Coming back from Starbucks and the AT&T Store in Warrenton. I'd already gone to Safeway and enjoyed the gorgeous change of the light after the rain stopped. A rainbow crossed the entire sky, but I'd been in a bad spot for any nice photos. This short scenario doen't mean much if you don't know my history. I will (perhaps) fill in later. Right now, suffice it to say I am getting better. I'm again stopping to take photos along the way even on a day when I didn't sleep well and my feet hurt.
I love it. One customer personalized her world by buying all green plastic animals.
As it turns out, running a web store is not for sissies. Between the information I got a few days ago from Lee's SEO guru relative Ben and the expensive hour I spent yesterday on the phone with the Big Commerce SEO Team counselor, I've got my work cut out for me - about 1,000 to 1,500 hours' worth as nearly as I can estimate if we do it right, or even almost right. Things have changed a lot in the Google universe in the last year and a half. I thought we were following the guidelines reasonably well, but they have gotten more and more specific, and I also missed the boat in a big way when I tried to personalize the site in a way that works for me but not for Google. I have a nice web store, and the only reason I care about these guidelines is that we need to do better than barely breaking even at the end of each month. With expectations of cheap prices and free shipping, there isn't much margin for profit. This means I have to increase volume.
Sales volume has actually dropped significantly since opening the new store. It looks better, it works better, but it does not generate more income. The new web store has made a good start, but anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour's worth of tweaking per page could make all the difference. The thing that feels overwhelming is that there are about 1,700 pages to edit in multiple places!
It doesn't all have to be done overnight, and it certainly won't be, but let the tweaking begin. I'm working way too hard for the kind of returns I've been getting this year. My old web store used to come up within the first few places on page one of Google for almost every item, and the photos came up well, too. Many people found the store through the photo links. That just isn't so anymore, and I finally know why. I feel like a dinosaur learning about grass-fed vs. corn-fed beef. There are some technical things about how many keywords to use, which keywords, long-tailed or short-tailed, and where to put them (all requiring research for each product), but here's the thing that's bumming me out. I was thoroughly enjoying combining educational information and nice photos about real animals with the store animals, building something that I felt was valuable and was certainly fun for me. As it turns out, that's one of the things that's hurting our sales.
Diluting information about stuffed animals, plastic animals, animal beaded keychains, and realistic animal painted pins with information about real animals doesn't cut it. (For example, Megalodon.) Reworking the pages will help. In the end, if we do everything right, helping to educate people about real animals and their conservation status, perhaps exciting someone to want to learn more, encouraging them to buy a plastic replica because they have learned something about the real animal, or just providing the opportunity to take home a better experience than simply purchasing a toy, the best we will achieve according to the experts is that this added enrichment "may not hurt us." Maybe things will look better to me once the sales improve, but today, yeah, I'm pretty bummed. Adding in the real animals and the real science has been a project of love and passion. And in a weird way, an aesthetic project as well.
I understand what the search engines are looking for, but their algorithms have come up hard against my personal values. I am still more artist than businessperson, and I can see that this trait is hardwired in. Still, I'm making the mental adjustment today and moving forward with an Excel sheet that lists every page on the site.
Soon I will be well enough to start working on real art projects again, and maybe this erstwhile aesthetic excursion won't matter so much to me. Or maybe it will.
I've just started another site for real animals as an adjunct to the web store. I wanted the store to be educational, too, but It turns out Google gets confused when you combine real animals with fake ones, so it may be the best of both worlds to split them up and link back to the store. Yes, the sites look about the same, and I'm fine with that. I've just made a new menu for my personal chronology on my own site site. It will be pretty cool, but only the top line and 1996 are working so far, because that's all I've done. The web is nothing if not an exercise in evolution. I guess I needed more projects. Once the foundation is laid, I hope it will be like an easy-to-use scrapbook.
So far, I'm still happy using Weebly. I've had to simplify some ideas and think up a few work-arounds, but it usually turns out for the best. I'm still trying to see if I can put more than one image in a wrapped text block, or if I have to fake it like on this page. They have quite a library of free photos that come with your account. If you need others, you can use the $5.00-per-photo library if you need to. So far all of the pix on the new site and most of the headers on my personal site are from the free library. Some of them are really great.
April 22, 1996 ~ Gateway, Colorado Photo by Marco Herranz
I've been having fun with Weebly making my new web site and figuring out how to make things work. Always, one of the hardest parts is figuring out menus, layouts, basic organization. That was going pretty well until I ran up against things Weebly is doing poorly or not at all. I almost want to go back to habd-building, but that is so slow and tedious. I will either find ways around the stumbling blocks by working with them more or (more likely) start simplifying - especially the internal menu pages. Ugh. I liked my design. I guess I don't know enough about what it does well (or not). It seems totally unable to use name codes to jump to certain parts of a page and I've designed pages where the "drag and drop" elements, don't.
Here's one page I do like - I think. I wanted to make the top listing clickable so you could jump down to the page sections, but the coding doesn't work that way. The galleries are easy, and that was something I especially wanted.
No, I think a different arrangement is needed - but not tonight.