This blog entry tonight actually got it’s start earlier today with another Forum question, but Martin suggested that I blog it also. So, some of this is a repeat of the “Sweating For Bucks” Forum topic called “Pimping the Jocks.”
Here it goes: The question I responded to had to do with whether the lumberjocks website would be a good place for people to sell their woodworking, or whether it was really just a woodworker’s site. The question is pretty pivotal, as it depends on how you look at the topic. We all know that we don’t buy each other’s work, although there have been many, many pieces of the posted projects that I would love to own, but being in a position to pay for them is the problem. I’m sure there are many of us in the same shape.
So, why then would a person consider the lumberjocks website as a means to help their professional woodworking business?
From my own experience, lumberjocks is a much more fruitful endeavor to promote my “work for sale” than I imagined at the beginning when I first signed up in early May last year. What I am finding is that the traffic that comes from the lumberjock links drives my own website much higher on the search engines.
Before lumberjocks, I might find my own website as a hit at the 10th or worse page on google. After a strong summer of traffic to the website, I have moved up significantly. This has been driven for the most part, by lumberjocks traffic.
For instance, if I typed my own name “Mark DeCou” into google in May, 2006, I couldn’t find my website. This was pretty frustrating considering the investment cost of a website, ongoing maintenance, and fees, etc. When I first got the big idea of starting up a website I thought it would be the easy road to riches. No need to have a gallery with an open door, just sit out in my little house and let the world come knocking. Har, har har, I say now to my naive thoughts of those days.
I first decided to get website after talking to a nationally known, big circulation, magazine ad space sales person. They told me that if I didn’t have a professional website, that I should save my money on the ad, and invest in a website. Then when the website was going, use their magazine to promote the website. They told me, I think it was 2002, that they were finding that if the advertiser didn’t have a website, nobody called them. If they had a website, they would get traffic to the site first, and then people would call if they liked what they saw. So, I decided to take their advice, and started saving for a website.
A few years have passed now, and I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours I have spent cleaning up photos, writing text, and laying out the information that my website master posts on it for me. The first day of the website being online was a big milestone for me, but when nobody called, or emailed I was pretty disappointed. I had planned the opending of the website to happen the weekend of a juried show I was attending in Kansas City, so that whomever I ran into at the show, could rush home and look at my website, returning day after day, and placing orders. I say this with some tongue-and-cheek humor now, but that is what I thought then.
At this show, people would look at my cards, and lousy brochures I printed myself, and see my website name, and say, “wow, you have a website?” In those days, it was a unique thing for someone in my status of life to have a website. The website gave me a “wow” factor, and an image that other artists didn’t have then. My, how quickly things have changed, eh?
Today, if you are selling something and you don’t have a website, people wonder whether you are really in business. Today, I don’t think the image of having a website has near the impact that it used to have. So, I am left to consider what is the reason to have one, and should I continue the cost?
All of us have had to make that same decision with the big yellow page ads. I didn’t think it was worth the expense, and so I haven’t ever done it, nor do I plan to. Spending several hundred dollars a year to have three lines of little font text printed on cheap yellow paper isn’t my idea of how to advertise my business, for the type of work I want to do.
However, I am thinking that business websites may have taken the place of the yellow page ad, that used to be necessary a decade ago. This is all theory, so I am not saying that I really know, I am just rambling about some thoughts. Isn’t that what a blog is for?
So, for several years I had a website, and found that few people ever contacted me saying they were doing a search. All of my website traffic was from word-of-mouth advertising from family, friends, and cards I had handed out somewhere. But, if I did a google search, nobody would find me. I tried doing a long list of metafile keywords, and that didn’t help much either. I was wondering, “is anyone finding my website?” And the answer was most assuredly, “NO!”
For those of you that have your own website, you need to get some service that tells you who, when, how long, and where they came from, for your website. Before I had those statistics I was just guessing at what was happening. I am using www.statcounter.com. This is a free service if you take a 100 pageload quantity log. I found that wasn’t enough, so I upgraded to the 1000 pageload log, which costs about $10 a month. Now, I can tell by logging in how many page loads have been viewd, what specifically was viewed, how the visitor found my website, what link they clicked where, to get to me, etc.
If I see some traffic from a certain computer coming back to my website several times, then I know someone is interested. I watch it for a few days, and then many times I get an email from someone living in that city I had been watching, asking for a price, or complimenting my work, or asking questions, or seeking advice, or other contact. I can’t tell from statcounter who the person is, or their mailing address, nor their email address, or their phone number, nor am I able to contact them first. But, I can tell what city they live in, their ISP address, and what they have been looking at on my website.
If I were to pay extra for the information, I can purchase more information about the visitor, but I don’t want to become a spammer, worse than a telemarketer, huh? I want people to buy my work based on their love of the work, not my attempts to pressure, or appeal to their wrong motivations, or catch them in a vulnerable mood, etc. I am looking for customers that will order again and again over many years, not one-time quick sales, and I don’t want people to be introduced to me by spamming them first.
It does make you think though doesn’t it?
If “little-ole-me” can tell exactly what computer visited my website, who is it that has your computer logged into their statistics? Maybe they aren’t so “ethics” driven in their business. Is it blackmail-able information? I am recommending that you watch where your cursor visits. If this makes you worried, you should be. I am worried about where my computer gets logged in, and it helps with my own accountability about visiting “those” type of websites. Ok, that’s enough of the morality monitor at this point.
Now, back to my subject:
Since June last summer, I have logged 14,570 (as of this morning) pageloads by visitors to my website. That is not many for a big company, but that is huge for my website, and a lot of traffic comes from the lumberjocks site, on average about 40-43% of those pageloads.
Now, lumberjocks aren’t buying anything from me at this point I agree, but it is their “traffic” that my website needs so that I can be “searched” and found by the search engines being used by people who are wanting to buy something. If they can’t find me quickly in the first few pages of the search engine, then they don’t visit the site, and I don’t exist as a business to them. It doesn’t matter how much I sand my work, or how well it is designed and constructed, it doesn’t exist if cyber customers can’t find it.
I am finding now, that no one that is using a google search visits my site if I am lower on the search than the third page (30th). I had one case this weekend where someone found me at the 71st item on their google search and they still came to my site, but that situation is an exception to the rule I have observed. I scanned back over their search to see who the other 70 hits were, and for the most part, were not the type of thing they were looking for, so they apparently kept moving down the listing until they found me. I don’t know who else they looked at, but I can imagine that the information is available if I wanted to pay for it somewhere.
Getting all of this marketing data is pretty fun, and I check it a couple of times a day. I have also learned that weekends are much stronger than weekdays. This was something I had not expected. I expected that people would steal away time from work to search the web. I am not finding that to be the heaviest use. I also find that holiday weekends are the best days for heavy traffic. Saturdays are not strong, but Friday night, and Sunday mornings are strong. Must be people doing some surfing before church, huh?
In almost every case, my site gets a visitor if their google search finds me in the first two pages of the search listing. How do I know this? The statcounter specs show me the search engine page they used, with the key words they used, and if I click that link on the screen, it will show me what they saw, and I can see all of the competition for attention around my own website listing. How do people choose to go to my site, versus another? I don’t know, I am working on that theory now.
I theorize that it is a combination of the website name, and how the key words were located in my site, you know, the extraction of a sentence that appears in the google listing just below my website name. This makes me consider carefully what I say in each sentence, and the name of my website.
I am finding that google searches are not hitting on my “keyword list”, but rather on direct, updated words in the sentences of my website. The whole method of setting up a metafile with keywords doesn’t seem to be the method that google is using any longer. There was probably too much abuse by website owners, and now google is adapting, but that is just rumor mill and I don’t know for sure. I do know that the google search hits are hitting on the text in my sentences, not the key word list.
You day-jobbers that build websites would know more than I do, so please share your knowlege with the rest of us.
Before lumberjocks, I had no one visiting me from a google search. After about 8 months of using lumberjocks for comraderie, google searches are around 20% of my traffic now. Those people are not lumberjocks, those are people searching for something with key words that google found in my updated, text sentences. Another 40-43% of the pageloads came from straight from lumberjocks links from myb posted projects, my profile, my blog, or comments I have made on other people’s projects.
Since I can see what key words people are searching for, I am able to modify my text, add text, and adjust my website to make it the most attractive for people trying to find things like I am able to make.
So, I am finding that the lumberjocks site is getting a lot of hits from non-members from their google searches. They find the lumberjocks site first, find my project that hit their key words, then they find my website.
For instance, In one week in November, I had 5 people from around the country send me emails asking for a price and description of my Nakashima-Inspired coffee table. They found my website, eventhough I never had a photo of that project posted on my own website, only on lumberjocks (interesting huh?). The same thing is happening with my Sam Maloof-Inspired rocking chair. I don’t have a photo of this project on my own website yet, only on the lumberjock site, but I am getting emails from people discussing the project.
At some point, people like myself will want to pay Martin for the statistics on the lumberjocks site, so that we can better understand the traffic that lumberjocks creates, helping us find ways to drive traffic to our own websites.
That is a lot of rambling, and so here is the bottom line for me about one-man woodworking shop websites: nobody finds them! But, We all need one!
However, if nobody finds our little websites then they don’t really exist to the buying public. To promote activity to my website, I have gone to shows and handed out cards with my website name, I have purchased expensive national magazine advertisment. That all cost me a lot of money, while the free Lumberjocks website is the only confirmable method for raising the flow of traffic to my site. Now, converting that traffic into cash orders is still another theory I am working on, and I will come back to that subject when I figure out some principles that seem to work.
The advantage that a site like lumberjocks has for folks trying to sell their woodworking, is the synergy created by having so much associated with the site, and the ease at which people can find the projects.
If you post a project on lumberjocks, you will have more people find you than if you do it on your own website, I could almost guarantee it, but I won’t.
If Martin had a special section where all of the projects that are “for sale” could be shown, or an extra button where non-members could see prices of the pieces for sale, I am betting that it would come nearer to selling on lumberjocks than on my own website.
Why you ask? It is because nobody can find my website with such low traffic flow! Can they find yours?
Since the traffic is increasing to my website from lumberjocks pushing people there, my own site is increasing in traffic, I am being found in google much higher in the hit list, and I am finally getting some activity to my website from people that want to buy things.
Other woodworkers have other experiences, so I will enjoy seeing what the others of you have learned.
Off to bed,
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com