This week we caught up with Dion Lovrecich, who along with his sister Andrea, are the owners of business oktoberfestcostumes.com.au. The business is currently listed on Flippa. Here is the full conversation below.
Background of the business
Tell us a little bit about the background of oktoberfest.com.au? I understand your sister is involved in the business in some way?
Yes she is and we can’t believe how this has taken off! Within three months it’s doing $60,000 in revenue and has already made $14,000 in profit. This is my sister Andrea’s business and I’m helping her sell it. She’s had ten years experience in costumes but always in a bricks and water capacity. I told her she had to take it into an online capacity and I was open to helping her since I have worked in digital marketing for years. Within just a couple of months, it absolutely took off and we are still getting sales even though October has finished now.
That’s probably a big question and tell us more about your customer base? What do you sell on oktoberfest costumes.com.au?
We sell a traditional German costume with the ladies wearing a dirndl and gents a lederhosen. These costumes are actually used all year round which many people don’t realise. In truth, this a highly seasonal business and we did more than 800 transactions over the last two and a half months. The thing is, customers still come through, but if I’m being honest it is a seasonal business. It has achieved huge growth and the potential is there for someone to build the business with other types of costumes or for a buyer to attach the business to something else.
The customer base and how this was grown
There are customers coming through thick and fast from the October period, in celebration of Oktoberfest of course. As you have said, the opportunity for the new owner is to obviously take it on in its current form but is it also to grow this into a generalist costume business?
Yeah, it could be a generalist costume business or it could be a closer niche to German costumes or you could pick another niche entirely to get into. There is a lot of organic traffic coming through and we have used social very successfully, along with some paid advertising too. The combination of the two was such a beautiful start. Andrea and I are keen to sell it but she is torn because she wants to keep the business given the phenomenal results we have seen in the first few months. At the end of the day, we’ve decided ‘let’s do this, it’ll be good for you (Andrea)’ and hopefully, we can find the right kind of buyer. Andrea wants to pass the business onto the right buyer.
The business opportunity and marketing efforts to date
Fantastic, when we talk about buyers, we here at Flippa often educate buyers and tell them to make sure that they know how the business is acquiring customers. So from the perspective of Oktoberfestcostumes.com.au, how has it been so successful early on? What are your marketing methods?
You can’t be that successful without paying for traffic. If you see a website that says they don’t pay for traffic and claim to have thousands of viewers, ask them a few questions. In fact, ask the guys at Flippa, they’ll help you out with that.
So you guys are buying keywords around the Oktoberfest period and around no doubt the specific product units so lederhosen and dirndl. You mention social, so how has social been beneficial? What platforms have been working for you?
It has been Incredible and the cost per click has been so low. There can be a lot of industry terminology that people throw around. But, at the end of the day, the cost per acquisition/cost per sale was exceptionally low. People liked the adverts, and they were being shared a lot on Facebook and Instagram and that’s how we built the business so quickly.
Andrea and Dion’s business is now on Flippa and its Oktoberfestcostumes.com.au. This successful start-up is six months old and has already made $60,000 in revenue. Make sure you check this profitable listing out.
If you own and operate an ecommerce site, smart SEO is all about increasing profits and giving your rankings a turbo boost.
Online businesses have a twofold priority when it comes to SEO: establish on-site tactics that Google and Bing applaud, and develop a loyal and reputable list of inbound and outbound links.
Ideally, ecommerce sites should carefully consider key SEO tactics like URL structure and usability long before they actually launch. If you do need to restructure an existing site, it’s trickier business for sure, but certainly not a lost cause. Regardless, the following tips can help your business vastly improve SEO results over time.
Remember: patience is needed as search engines don’t always pick up on changes right away.
Site Structure and Content
It’s beyond important that you choose a URL naming structure that is closely aligned with your keyword strategy. If you are targeting “discount shoes” as your primary keyword, and your URL lists something like “franksstore.com”, there is an immediate disconnect. The more concise and descriptive your URLs are, the better your SEO results. It’s still immensely important to land an appropriate domain.
Just as your domain name is important, so too is the way you structure your navigation. Be very methodical about plotting out the most intuitive and descriptive site structure.
Categories need to be clear, with sub-categories equally descriptive when needed. If you don’t adapt naming structures and user-friendly navigation, your site pages will compete against each other and damage your rankings, rather than assist.
Remember that changing URL names and structures is incredibly difficult after you’ve launched, and the bots have crawled your site. It can take months to undo the damage inconsistent or poorly named URLs can cause, so the more you plan these out ahead of time, the happier you’ll be with your rankings.
These puppies are also hyper-critical to your SEO success! Don’t just go with your gut assumption, use resources like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to validate the popularity of those you select. Then, use your keywords across your site’s content – in URLs, product descriptions, About Us pages, and meta-data galore.
Don’t go overboard on articles, descriptions, and blogs, but make sure you’ve committed to dispersing your keywords generously across your site.
4) Write Effective Product Text
Your products are the heart of your site’s success, so hire a writer to craft intelligent, concise, and highly polished descriptions for everything you sell. As mentioned above, you’ll also want to ensure keywords are used throughout!
5) Meta Data
Don’t forget to update your site’s meta data – components like your headline and title tag are still very applicable to a great ranking. Keywords are again necessary throughout, as is guaranteeing clarity, correct grammar, and descriptive text.
6) Duplicate Content
Content that’s duplicated anywhere on your site is considered a major no-no by search engines, and these mishaps will negatively affect your ranking. These occur when the site’s structure is confusing, and when no one is organizing the top-level architecture.
Big offenders include printer-friendly content versions, session IDs, and content published under multiple categories. If you absolutely need to include duplicate content, have your developer implement robot exclusions (i.e., tell search engine bots not to crawl these pages) for the less important duplicates.
7) Load Times
If you have a slow loading homepage or landing page, you may also feel your rankings sink. All your main pages should be well optimized, and that goes for mobile sites as well.
8) Smart Link Building
As you amass your collection of link building partners, remember that who your partners link to is as critical as who you choose to link to as well. As an example, if you link to an otherwise reputable website or ecommerce destination that in turn links to sites Google has red-listed, you could very well be penalized. It’s therefore imperative you choose wisely when procuring inbound and outbound links.
9) Make Friends with the Media
Ecommerce site owners do well with smart content marketing strategies, and at the top of this list is befriending the best bloggers and news sites in your industry. Every niche has prominent authors, reviewers, and related experts. Reach out regularly to these folks with quality content and link requests. Make sure your correspondence is polite and polished, because these publications are worth their weight in SEO gold!
Fall in Love with Data
Your Google Analytics account is another SEO gem. Understanding where your site is failing, and addressing those issues efficiently, can actually help you increase your ranking. For example, if a site has a monster bounce rate – meaning a high percentage of visitors that exit the site seconds after arriving – chances are SEO results are not optimal either. The better your analytics help you to convert customers, the more search engines will reward you too.
The data that’s most critical to monitor includes the aforementioned bounce rates, unique visitors, length of visits, page load times, and conversions.
Google Analytics also has special features specifically for ecommerce sites. Go here to make sure ecommerce tracking is triggered and correctly implemented. This can do wonders for helping you upgrade your site and adeptly track how well you are converting customers.
11) Respond to Trends Slowly
As you analyze your data, never be quick to make sweeping changes across your entire site, or you can easily do more harm than good. Test changes in sections of your site to confirm success rates whenever possible, and always publish changes in small batches. Never ever adopt a tactic sitewide unless you know it will be hugely advantageous.
12) Watch Your Competitors
If you don’t have your finger on the the pulse of your competitors’ SEO tactics, you’re missing out. They may very well be implementing some ideas better than you are currently, but that’s an easy fix if you’re watching their progress. Don’t let your competitors outdo you in SEO!
Over to You
Yes, it’s true that SEO is a comprehensive and challenging part of any ecommerce business, but it can literally be the awesome sauce that catapults you to ridiculous success.
Be methodical, analytical, and hyper-organized with your approach, and you can expect to see steadily higher rankings, and reap the related benefits. Good luck in your mission! And please let us you know your thoughts in the comments.
It can be daunting to sit down and decipher your website’s data. It’s challenging to know which metrics are most important and to unravel the story they are telling.
Numbers are meaningless without the intelligent interpretation of what they represent, so deciding what you track, and how to track it, remains a crucial task for any site owner. Below we list what we think are the 5 most important factors to study through both short and long term cycles, as they will tell you the most about the successes and failures of your site.
Setting Up Your Web Analytics
Have you set up your free Google Analytics account yet? All you need is a verifiable Google account (for example Gmail). You can follow the steps to activate tracking on your website through this incredibly powerful tool.
If you prefer to use one of the other metrics tracking tools in the market, you can try Coremetrics, Omniture, or WebTrends. These services incur various levels of fees but can offer immensely robust reporting systems and customer support, too.
Either way, here are the key metrics that you should always track on your site. Let’s dip our toes into the sea of information that is the world of analytics.
#1: Total Visits
Total visits are your most essential metric. This number reveals the amount of traffic your site is achieving each day. Pay attention to the trends in traffic over days and weeks, especially as they relate to your marketing campaigns. If you launch efforts to drive traffic and you’re seeing a spike, that’s perfect feedback communicating the effectiveness of your strategies. The reverse is obviously true too. When you see unusual dips in traffic, check things like your site’s stability to ensure there were no outages.
Check your total site visits daily. It’s like the heartbeat of your site, as it consistently reveals how healthy your business is on a fundamental level.
#2: New Visits
New visits show the segment of your total visit traffic that are attributed to unique views. This metric is a comparison of your unique visitors, versus those who are repeat customers. If you have unusually high percentages of new visitors (above 30%), that’s an indication that your site isn’t sticky enough to warrant repeat traffic. You’ll clearly want to optimize and address this trend by highlighting your most valuable content, so you encourage people to come back. Likewise, if you see very few new visits (in the single digits), and you’re doing significant marketing efforts to drive new traffic, you know other strategies are needed to meet your goals.
This metric should reflect a balance between your acquisition and retention attempts. A good target for repeat visits each day is around 15%.
#3: Traffic Sources by Segment
Traffic sources communicate the places that are sending visitors to your site. These include:
Direct traffic – Visitors that access you directly through your URL, either by typing the address into their browser, or by clicking on a bookmark. These could also be sourced by untagged links from emails.
Organic traffic – Links from an unpaid search engine listing.
Referral traffic – This is traffic that is linked to from other sites.
Traffic sources do more than just reveal segments. They also show you how successful your SEO efforts are. If, for example, your organic traffic is less than 40%, that’s an indication that you’re not ranking well on sites like Google. Referrals should track around 20-30%. This percentage is a healthy amount of traffic coming from link-building efforts.
It’s integral that you create a nice balance of all three segments. You don’t want to rely solely on links or SEO efforts because this hardly ever results in stable, long term growth. By keeping in the know about your traffic sources, you can clearly map out your next necessary marketing tactics.
#4: Conversions by Source
Next, you need to track conversions by source. This metric reveals your current conversion rate and your total conversions from all referring traffic sources. You’ll use the same segments as you did in Metric #3 – that is, looking at your direct, organic, and referral traffic. It may be that your overall conversion metrics match up with each segment and source, but it’s likely there will be a fluctuation. These discrepancies reveal successes and failures with regards to the traffic you are sourcing, and the effectiveness of your website to convert visitors.
For example, if your conversion rate is 3% for organic traffic and 12% for referrals, you can deduct a couple of key points. First, your search engine results are not performing well, which likely means your keyword strategies need to adjust to match what your audience is actually typing to search for your services. A healthy conversion rate for referrals indicates you’re selecting ideal linking partners with demographics that match yours enough to convert well.
Your website is the single most important factor to conversions. You need to constantly study and tweak the various paths to help visitors down your conversion belt. Be clear about what you want your visitors to do next. Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Buy your latest services or products? Remember that a clear call to action will increase your conversion rate.
#5: Top Pages for New Traffic and Conversions
Throughout your website, there will be a handful of pages that receive the highest levels of incoming traffic. These often include your homepage, but they can also be landing pages your marketing team is using to drive campaigns and promotions. Additionally, popular content pieces that are linked to repeatedly by other sites may also be your top traffic generators.
The pages on your site that get the most traffic are obviously the pages you’ll spend the most amount of time perfecting. If they aren’t converting well for you, the rest doesn’t matter. Your metrics will reveal both the highest trafficked pages, and their respective conversion rates. Always aim to have double digit conversions for this suite of pages.
Over to You
Website analytics isn’t rocket science, but it does require an overall understanding and a commitment to consistent tracking and analyzing. As you make changes and watch how your traffic responds, it will get easier and easier to decipher what a dip or jump in traffic or conversions is actually communicating. Regardless, these metrics are your friends. Get to know them as well as possible, and they will point you to your greatest successes.
How do you use analytics to track your progress? Please share your tips in the comments.
Thanks to Wolfgang Staudt for the image!
Organic traffic isn’t necessarily worth more than paid traffic
After several years in the industry of buying and selling websites, and in my current position running a website due diligence agency, I tend to speak to website owners with various levels of knowledge and experience.
This article aims to break a widespread myth that sites getting organic traffic from search engines are more valuable than those getting traffic from Pay per Click or Display Ads. A large number of webmasters and buyers alike, even experienced ones, tend to severely over-estimate the value of organic traffic, as opposed to that of paid traffic.
To a degree, it’s understandable. I’ve even seen several self-proclaimed ‘experts’ go as far as suggesting first time website buyers to stay away from any sites that rely on paid traffic and only deal with those that receive “natural” organic traffic from search engines.
From the last 50 or so website acquisitions that I’ve overseen either as a broker or as a due diligence consultant, the sites that had over 70% of their traffic originating from Google sold, on average, for a multiple 37% higher than those that relied mostly on paid traffic. In other words, buyers are still willing to pay a premium for sites that get organic traffic.
We’ll look at some of the main reasons why in reality organic traffic is far less valuable and more risky than its paid counterpart.
1. Overall Instability and Risk
Not many site owners realise that there’s an extremely high degree of risk and instability associated with search traffic.
Even sites that have had stable rankings for years can have their traffic disappear overnight as a result of a small change in the search engine’s algorithms (and if that engine happens to be Google, those changes can happen often!). Contrary to popular belief, this is a risk not just for sites that utilise unorthodox or blackhat SEO tactics but also for the perfectly legitimate ones.
Having a quick look around webmaster forums at the time of a major Google update will give you a good idea of the seriousness of the situation. Every update leaves hundreds of thousands of website owners puzzled as to why the rankings of their once-so-popular websites have diminished overnight.
With paid traffic however, none of these risks are present.
2. Due Diligence Burden
Needless to say, websites that have been aggressively “SEO-ed”, and especially those that have used “black hat” SEO tactics, are at an even greater risk of having their search rankings disappear overnight.
Changes in search rankings often take time to come into play, so when you’re buying a site it’s important to not only be careful with the SEO that you will perform on your newly acquired website yourself, but also take a close look at the SEO activities that the previous owner has performed. Often enough, illegitimate SEO strategies only backfire months (or sometimes years) later.
Because of this, the buyer’s due diligence burden is usually much higher when dealing with search traffic than it is when dealing with paid traffic. This is both because traffic characteristics need to be looked at more carefully and because it can often take extreme effort and great investigative skills to spot potential issues and illegitimate SEO tactics that have been used in the past but are likely to backfire in loss of traffic after the purchase.
As a buyer, this results in quite a lot of work, and as a seller, it’s in your interest to make your buyer’s life as easy as possible.
Naturally, this problem doesn’t really exist with paid traffic. Provided you can verify the source of the traffic, how much it costs and how well it converts, you can usually assume things will continue to go in the right direction.
3. Fighting Competition
Another important aspect to bear in mind when acquiring a site that depends overly on search traffic, is that you’re often limited when it comes to competing with other sites ranking for the same search keywords.
With paid traffic, who gets the top spot is mostly decided on which of the competing advertisers is willing to pay the higher price.
The size of your ad budget of course depends on how good you are at converting your leads into business, which ultimately depends on how good you are at running your business!
And that’s exactly how it should work. The website that is better at what they do gets more business. With search however, it’s a whole different story. If your site relies on search traffic then it’s effectively the search engine that decides whether the buyers should go to your site or your competitor’s site, and there is very little you can do about it other than more SEO (but this comes with a completely new set of risks).
4. Scaling Up
Something that many webmasters only realise once they’ve been running a site for a while is the lack of possibilities for scaling up organic traffic. Quite obviously, the only way to increase the traffic that your site gets from search is moving up in rankings. However, this is more often than not an extremely difficult task that can result in the exact opposite if done incorrectly.
At the same time, most paid advertising campaigns can be scaled up quite easily. If you’re running Pay Per Click then you can simply increase your budget or widen your selection of keywords, and you’ll see an instant increase in traffic. With direct ad buys, you can sign more ad deals or increase the impression caps that you have in place for the existing ones and the result is similar.
Whilst it is also possible to scale up organic traffic sites by simply adding paid traffic to the equation, you need to bear in mind that when buying a site that is already getting paid traffic, you’re also buying all of the preparation and testing that has already been done. More importantly, you will then have proof that paid traffic does indeed work for this particular site.
Often times, starting to drive paid traffic later on only results in hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spent, simply because many websites out there could never survive if they had to pay for their leads, effectively demonstrating a flawed business model where the business is only profitable if leads are provided free of charge!
5. Optimising the Conversion Process
Last but not least, search traffic provides a poor playground for split testing and experimenting to see what works or converts at a better rate.
As a split testing junkie, I find search traffic extremely difficult to work with. Not only do search engines provide no control over which part of my site clients first see, in many cases changes done as a result of a split test can have disastrous effects on the site’s search rankings in general.
What works for your leads and best turns them into clients isn’t necessarily what a search engine deems best content.
This can create a situation where you end up optimising your site’s main landing page for conversions, only to find out a couple of months down the line that the changes that you’ve made have lowered your search rankings and as a result, the number of leads that the page is meant to convert has decreased considerably.
With paid traffic, especially Pay Per Click, split testing is extremely simple and you can run several tests at the same time to keep increasing your conversion rate.
If you’re a buyer then it’s important to see whether the site you’re about to buy depends overly on search traffic and take it into your consideration when valuing the asset and performing due diligence.
Not only can you better analyse the risks associated with the site, but an educated buyer can also use the market’s overall ignorance to pick up high quality properties that depend mostly on paid traffic at lower multiples.
If you’re someone thinking of selling your site in the future and the site currently relies on search traffic then it’s in your best interest to start diversifying before it’s too late and add in some paid traffic components. Starting a Pay Per Click campaign is a simple and straightforward process, and the nature of PPC allows you to start experimenting even on a very tight budget.
Currently, many buyers are willing to pay a premium for sites like this but buyers are getting smarter daily and because of the reasons laid out above, this situation is likely going to change in the near future.
What about you? Do you place a higher value on organic traffic, or have you learned to love paid traffic sources?
Thanks to liquidnight for the photo!
Make sure your traffic heads in the right direction.
One of the most common mistakes made by website owners is the incorrect use of redirects. Redirects are simply directive your website sends to bots/visitors/crawlers on what to do if they are requesting a specific page, media item or domain. Sounds simple, but redirects can have a huge impact on the performance of your website and cost you money as well as wasting valuable SEO authority. It’s important that you are sending the right directive, otherwise you can see a massive impact, first to your rankings, then traffic, conversions and finally revenue.
Why use a redirect?
If you move/delete a page, update your website CMS platform, structure of your website or move to another domain, the visitor will only see the new destination if you use a redirect. With a properly done redirect, the visitor doesn’t notice the change and you limit the amount of Google organic and referral traffic you might have lost. Your business keeps ticking along without a hitch!
The other big benefit is that if you use the correct redirect status code you can salvage valuable SEO authority signals and reduce any drop in rankings if you have to make a change.
Why you might need to do a redirect:
Buying a new domain and redirect your old site to the new domain
Buying an old domain with links/authority and you redirect to an existing website
You merge two existing websites into one website
You delete old pages for products/services you no longer offer
You switch CMS platforms and have a new URL structure
You enable permalinks in WordPress i.e. “pretty SEO URLs”
The main HTTP Status Codes (Directives)
These primary different codes are served to the browser, which results in displaying an alternative page to the original request. All of the redirects listed below have slightly different uses but also can impact your SEO if you don’t get them right. If a redirect is done correctly, it will have limited impact to SEO authority, no impact on visitor experience, and no major effect on conversions or revenue. The best redirects are performed instantly by your server in the backend and there should be no noticeable impact to load times.
301 Redirects – Permanent
The best reason to use permanent 301 redirects is ensuring you don’t lose valuable SEO authority if you need to change URLs or move a website. This directive advises the page has moved permanently, but the directive can be changed at any point if you need to update the redirection. This redirect is the best practice to retain any SEO authority from an old page to a new page. This is the default redirect used when you enable permalinks in WordPress.
302 Redirects – Temporary
There is no real reason why you use this as a redirect as it does not provide much SEO benefit and can create duplicate content issues (since Google will retain the old page in its index). A number of CMS platforms such as Umbraco use this as the default redirect status code, and it can often be used for secure content if the visitor is not logged in. You may find that web developers will use 302 redirects unless you specify a 301 redirect as to them there is no difference and the 302 is usually easier for them as it’s the default option, but stand your ground! Unless there is a technical reason to do otherwise, you want to push for a 301 redirect.
This technique is browser based and not server based. It was the original way to redirect visitors, and if you are using a very old hosting platform it might be the only way you can redirect visitors. It offers less SEO benefits and can easily be abused so is mistrusted by search engines as a directive on where to find content. Back in 2007, it was rumoured that search engines accepted these as redirects, but best practice would say you should be using 301 redirects where possible and not Meta Refresh tags unless there is a technical requirement.
You can pick these up with Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools. Some CMS platforms will also alert you of 404s. The solution to deal with 404 errors is to map them to a new relevant/similar page via a 301 redirect. You want to keep an eye out for 404 errors and address them, as you are losing valuable traffic to a dead page. Best practice for 404 error pages are to ensure you serve a custom 404 error page so that your visitors can still navigate to main sections of your website or include a search box so they can find the correct page.
If you don’t use a redirect, use a meta refresh or a 302 redirect you may find that Google will keep the old page in the index for a significant amount of time. If you use a 301 redirect Google’s index will update eventually and show the new correct URL.
Typically if you have had content indexed that should not be the index, and you don’t want Google to ever show that page again, you should use a 410. They are becoming more common if you engaged in very aggressive/blackhat SEO link building to a page and have accepted that it’s never coming back due to a manual or algorithmic penalty. You won’t often use these pages in place of a 404 page and not all hosting platforms can serve them easily.
WordPress Plugins for Redirects
I have tested several ways to managed and track 404 errors without having to check Google Webmaster Tools or server logs and find that Redirection is one of the best plugins I’ve used for migration of websites. Unlike several other plugins, it also offers error monitoring and redirect logs so you can understand how it’s performing. You can do some fairly complex redirects with Redirection, but I’ve usually used the simple 301 redirection method.
Tools for Checking Redirects
The awesome folks at UK search agency Ayima have built a nifty little Chrome plugin, Redirect Path, that allows you to quickly catch any potential issues and fix them. If you click the Chrome icon, you can also expand the detail to quickly show HTTP Headers and technical details which you can supply to your web developer if there are issues with redirects.
Don’t miss out on valuable traffic: use the correct redirects!
There are plenty of guides on how to create redirects online, but you should check with your web hosting company to see what platform your website is built on so you create the right script for server-side redirects. If in doubt, hire a developer who understands the issue and get them to do it for you correctly the first time. This is one time when a job well done will pay off.
Photo credit: ShannonK