Chapter 6: Launch Tasks

Chapter 6: Launch Tasks

Congratulations on completing Chapter 5 and getting your store built! All of your hard work to get to this point is about to start paying off! Here in Chapter 6, I’ll be walking you through a handful of must-do steps (which make up the "Store Launch Sequence") that will let Google — and the world — know that your store is "live" and open for business. By the end of Chapter 6, you'll have an open online store!

Do you remember the phrase "If you build it, they will come" from the movie Field of Dreams?

Launch Your StoreWell, I’m afraid it's NOT true for an online store (or anything in business, really)! Just because you built it does NOT mean people will come to it. You might have the most beautiful, amazing, well-built store on planet Earth… but if you don’t complete the steps in the Store Launch Sequence and continue on with the training, nobody will ever know it exists and you’ll never make any real money with it!

If, by chance, you already had a store before discovering Store Coach, it’s well worth your time to review this chapter and make sure you’ve completed all the steps in the Store Launch Sequence. These are important steps every store owner (new or seasoned) should take to set themselves up for success.

This isn’t an all-inclusive list of everything covered here in Chapter 6, but here’s a quick preview of some of the key steps in the Store Launch Sequence…

  • Set up your Google account and activate/configure several core Google products
  • Create your social profile accounts
  • Set up an on-site blog (which will be the primary place you post new content and which will serve as the "hub" for your social marketing)
  • Do expanded keyword research and implement additional keyword phrases on your site

All in all, Chapter 6 shouldn’t take you more than a couple hours to get through. Let’s get started!

Set Up Google Products

The first task in the Store Launch Sequence is to create a Google account for your business (if you don’t have one already) and activate/configure all of the various "Google products" you’ll want for your store, including:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Publisher Tag
  • Google Merchant Center
  • Google AdWords
  • Google Mail (Gmail)

We prefer to use Google products for 3 main reasons…

  1. They’re 100% free and pretty darn amazing (especially considering that they’re free).
  2. A single Google account gives you access to the entire suite of Google products (very convenient).
  3. Google is the #1 search engine and should eventually become your #1 source for free, organic traffic, so it’s important to pay attention to what Google sees and recommends for your site.

Set Up Google Analytics (GA)

Google AnalyticsMost shopping cart platforms (including 3DCart and BigCommerce) have built-in tracking and reporting capabilities. But Google Analytics (GA) is much more powerful, flexible and comprehensive so we prefer to use GA for the vast majority of statistics and reports. Google Analytics tracks all kinds of useful statistical information about your site…

  • how many visitors came to your site
  • where they came from
  • what keyword phrase they searched for
  • what page they landed on
  • how long they stayed on your site
  • how many pages they visited
  • whether they made a purchase
  • a bunch of additional information

You can also set up "goals" you want Google Analytics to track for you, which is really useful. The most obvious goal, of course, is a “purchase goal” that keeps track of how many visitors place an order. But you could also set up goals for things like signing up for your newsletter, creating an account, landing on a particular page, and so on.

We’re not going to worry about setting up any goals yet. Right now, I just want you to create a Google Analytics account and insert the “tracking code” into your site so Google can start tracking visitors. Later on in the training, we’ll go into more depth on how to actually use all the data Google tracks for you to improve your store and maximize your conversion rate.

How to Set Up Your Analytics Account & Install the Tracking Code

Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)

GWTDon’t you wish there was a way to see your site the way Google sees it? To see it through Google’s eyes? Wish granted! 😀 This is exactly what Google WMT is! It alerts you of problems Google sees with your site… things like broken links, crawl errors, duplicate meta titles, etc. If there’s ever a major problem with your site (which hopefully will never happen), you may even receive a message from Google in your WM account to let you know what the problem is and how to fix it.

Within your GWT account, you can also submit a sitemap to tell Google the exact URLs of all the pages on your site that you want Google to index (i.e. include in its search results). In theory, Google will eventually find all of your pages on its own; but submitting a sitemap (via your GWT account) expedites that process and ensures that Google finds all your pages.

How to Set Up & Use Google Webmaster Tools
Submitting Your Sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools

Pro's Edge: Should My Page URLs Include a 'www' Prefix or Not?

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Google Publisher Tag

The Google Publisher tag officially “ties” your website to your business’ Google+ page (i.e. it tells Google that you own/control both of them). Why does this matter? Two reasons…

  1. Google will display a link to your Google+ profile page next to search results for your website, which draws searchers’ attention and increases your click-through rate (i.e. the percentage of people who click the link and come to your site).
  2. Google can link up the reviews/ratings left on your Google+ profile with your site.

The Publisher tag is still fairly young, but we expect Google to do more and more with it over the next couple years. You probably don’t have a Google+ page for your business/website yet (since we haven’t gotten to that a step yet), so you’ll probably need to come back to this step after you’ve set that up.

Google Merchant Center (GMC)

Google Merchant CenterGoogle Merchant Center (GMC) is the interface (i.e. account) you use to manage your Google Shopping ads (which are officially called Product Listing Ads, or PLAs).

Up until a few years ago, inserting your products into Google Shopping was free. And consequently, everyone and their dog submitted their product feed file to Google Shopping. The end result? Google Shopping was so over-saturated that it resulted in very little traffic. Sure, the traffic you got was free (which is great)... but all too often that was only 4 visitors a month! 🙁

Google PLAsWhen Google Shopping changed to a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model a few years ago, everyone got all up in arms about how greedy Google was being. ”How dare they start charging for something that’s always been free!” But we were ecstatic about the change! Just as we expected, 95% of the stores who had used Google Shopping stopped. And now you can actually get meaningful traffic from Google Shopping! It’s very affordable compared to other forms of paid advertising, and the traffic you get is extremely targeted (meaning it converts really well).

We typically start PLAs immediately after completing our store build-out. PLAs are the perfect way to bring targeted traffic to your site while you’re waiting for your SEO/marketing efforts to start bringing in a constant flow of free, organic traffic. You certainly don’t have to do PLAs or any other form of paid advertising (now or ever). But we always do, and we highly recommend it.

The nice thing about PLAs (and other PPC campaigns) is that you can quickly tell whether they’re profitable or not. It’s nothing like a big marketing campaign you’d do in "the real world" for a brick and mortar store. You’re not going to have to spend thousands of dollars for a radio/TV/magazine ad and then "cross your fingers" that it pays off. PLAs are pay-as-you-go, so there’s very little risk. You just set up the ads and then watch them for a couple/few days to see how they do. You’ll only be paying maybe 20-50 cents per click (i.e. per person who clicks on one of the ads and comes to your store). You’ll be able to tell very quickly (without risking more than $40-50 total) whether the ads are paying for themselves (i.e. whether they’re generating enough sales/profit to cover what you’re paying for the ads).

Pro's Edge: Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) Set-Up Guide

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Pro's Edge: Google PLAs Advanced Bidding Guide

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Google AdWords

Google AdWordsGoogle AdWords are another type of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising offered by Google. They’re the traditional paid ads with a headline and a couple rows of text (rather than product images/titles/prices) you've no-doubt seen on Google search results pages.

My recommendation is to hold off on Google AdWords ads for now, as they’re usually (depending on the niche) more expensive that PLAs and don’t bring quite as targeted of traffic. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still recommending trying out AdWords ads... I just wouldn't start them yet. It’s not one of the tasks in the Store Launch Sequence. But go ahead and activate a Google AdWords account so it’s ready and waiting when you get to Chapter 9 and go to set up your first AdWords campaign.

Google Mail (Gmail)

GmailObviously, you’ll want to use your domain-specific email account (the one you set up through your shopping cart’s admin panel) for your “official” emails corresponding with customers and suppliers. But I typically use a Gmail account for marketing and link-building efforts (which we’ll get into in Phase 3). This keeps your primary, domain-specific email account more clean and organized.

Create Social Profile Accounts

Set Up Social AccountsAlright, let’s get social! Well, let’s at least get ready to get social. 😉 Here in Chapter 6, you’re just going to set up your social accounts so they’ll be 100% ready when you're ready to start using them.

Take a few minutes to watch this video to learn about the power of social marketing and how it works. Then, after the video, I’ll walk you through how to create your social profile accounts.

Step-by-step instructions for setting up accounts at each of the "Big 3" social networking sites are provided in the expandable sections below...

Steps to Create a Twitter Account & Profile for Your Website
Steps to Create a Google+ Page for Your Website
Steps to Create a Facebook Fan Page for Your Website

Pro's Edge: How to Get a Custom URL for Your Facebook Fan Page

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Set Up & Configure Your On-Site Blog

Note: Since recording the above video, Google has "retired" the Google Authorship tag.
It's no longer necessary (or even possible) to add the Authorship tag.

Your on-site blog will be the "hub" for the social marketing you’ll be doing in Phase 3. Without a blog, there’s really no point in even setting up social accounts or doing social marketing!

On-Site BlogA blog is also the easiest, most natural place to continuously add new, unique content to your site. We touched on this a little bit back in Chapter 5 and we’ll go into a lot more depth on it in Phase 3, but it’s important for you to recognize the value of constantly adding fresh, original content to your site. Google hates stagnant, unchanging sites. You should constantly be adding new content, and your blog is the best place to do that.

What Does "On-Site Blog" Mean?

Your blog needs to be an integral part of your website. In other words, it needs to reside on the same domain name as your site (i.e. YourDomain.com/blog or blog.YourDomain.com). You don’t want to set it up as a completely separate, stand-alone website with its own domain name. In order for a) the social marketing stuff to work and b) your store to get rewarded by Google for the content you’re adding to your blog, you want to set it up as an on-site blog.

Blogging Platform Options

The bottom line here is that you can use ANY blogging platform you’d like. If you’re already familiar with a particular platform, I’d say use that! The platform itself doesn’t really matter so long as you have a blog and actively use it.

Many shopping carts (including 3DCart and BigCommerce) have built-in blogging platforms, which is nice. The PROs to using your cart's built-in blogging system are: 1) it's pre-configured so set-up will be easier, and 2) there's no additional cost (it's included with your shopping cart subscription you're already paying). The big CON is that you're pretty much stuck with its out-of-the-box functionality ("as-is"). You can't add plug-ins and widgets like you can with WordPress and other major blogging platforms.

WordPress Blogging PlatformThat's why I generally recommend using WordPress (my personal favorite) or another blogging platform such as Tumblr or Blogger (if you're more familiar with one of them). But didn’t you say it needs to be an on-site blog? Yes, it does. But each of these stand-alone blogging platforms allows you to "map" your blog to be a sub-domain on your site (i.e. blog.YourDomain.com).

Set Up & Configure Your On-Site Blog

Follow the step-by-step instructions in the Pro's Edge section below to set up and configure your on-site blog.

Pro's Edge: How to Set Up & Configure an On-Site Blog

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Do Expanded Keyword Research & Keyword-Optimize More Pages on Your Site

Back in Chapter 5, I only had you keyword-optimize your home page for the primary keyword phrase you're targeting. The rest of your site (including category pages, sub-category pages, brand pages and product pages) is NOT keyword-optimized yet. Let's remedy that, shall we? 🙂

Why didn't we just keyword-optimize all the pages back when we were building the store in Chapter 5? Excellent question. 🙂 I intentionally had you hold off until now to ensure that you didn't a) build your store with Google - instead of customers - in the forefront of your mind, or b) over-optimize your site, which can get you penalized by Google. Besides, you had enough to focus on while you were building your store. I didn't want to add this to the pile! But now that your store is built, let's find some more keyword phrases to target and the best pages on your site to implement them.

Step 1. Find More Keyword Phrases

Match Keyword Phrases to PagesMany people make the mistake of picking a particular page on their site and then trying to find a somewhat relevant keyword phrase that "fits" that page. That's the wrong approach. Instead, we're going to start out by using Niche Finder Pro to find a bunch (5-20) of additional keyword phrases that are relevant to our niche/store. Then, once we have a good list, we'll go through and choose which page on our site is best suited for each keyword phrase we want to implement. Make sense?

Open Niche Finder Pro and set the 'Minimum Daily Searches' option to a low number (i.e. 5). You're looking for secondary keyword phrases here; you're not choosing a niche. So we're okay with lower-volume phrases. (Set the other two filters fairly low as well.)

Now do a search for your root word (in singular form). Cruise through the results and save any and all relevant keyword phrases to your Favorites list. Try not to even think about whether the keyword phrases you find might have a good corresponding page on your site; just save everything that's even somewhat relevant. (Note: You may also want to search for other short phrases - i.e. brand names, styles, other descriptors - related to your niche/product line to find additional keyword phrases.) Once you've exhausted all of your search ideas, skip over to your Favorites page and run the 'Can I Rank?' calculator for each keyword phrase.

Now it's time to pick some additional keyword phrases you want to optimize for. Like I said before, we're okay with lower-volume phrases here (the 'Daily Search Volume' number does NOT need to be bold & green). You'd rather optimize a particular category or brand page for a keyword phrase that only gets 15 or 20 searches per day than not keyword-optimize the page at all! But aside from that, use the same general mentality you used back in Chapter 1 when you were picking a niche. The higher each of the 4 scores, the better!

Come up with a prioritized list (ordered from most attractive to least attractive, based on the 4 scores in Niche Finder Pro) of the top 5 or 10 (or possibly as many as 20, depending on the niche) secondary keyword phrases you want to implement in your store. Once you've created your list (preferably organized into a simple spreadsheet), you're ready to move on to Step 2.

Step 2. Choose the Best Page for each Keyword Phrase

Next, create a list of all of the "top-level" pages on your site. This includes:

  • Main category pages
  • Sub category pages
  • Brand pages
  • FAQs and/or buyers guide pages
  • Maybe a handful of the most popular product pages (the ones that actually get searched for)

Now you're just going to start at the top of your top-level pages list and pick the keyword phrase that is the "best fit" for each top-level page (1 keyword phrase per page). The keyword phrase doesn't need to be a perfect match, but it should at least make sense. Don't force it too much! 😉 Your focus should be on assigning a keyword phrase to each main category and sub-category page, as well as brand pages. But you can also assign a keyword phrase to particular product pages as well.

Now, there's a very strong likelihood that a handful of the keyword phrases in your list won't have a home. That's perfectly fine! Like I said before, you don't want to try to force a square peg into a round hole. Left-overs are fine. For attractive (i.e. high-scoring) keyword phrases you don't assign to a particular page, you can create a "queue" and consider writing a blog post, article or buying guide that targets that phrase later on.

Step 3. Keyword-Optimize the Pages You've Selected

Now go through, page by page, and keyword-optimize each page exactly the same way you optimized your home page back in this section of Chapter 5...

  • Put 1 instance of the keyword phrase in the page's title tag
  • Put 1 instance of the keyword phrase in the page's H1 heading
  • "Sprinkle" the keyword phrase (and related LSI keyword phrases) naturally into the textual content of the page 2-5 times

Remember not to go overboard and run the risk of over-optimizing the pages. And be careful not to undo all the good work you've done with making your site customer-friendly. If changing the H1 heading on a page is going to be confusing to customers that land on that page, don't change it! Similarly, if changing the title tag for a page is going to cause confusion to shoppers who arrive at that page out from Google or another search engine, don't mess with the title tag. It's not worth confusing your customers and losing sales to try to keyword-optimize for a phrase that doesn't really fit. Again, don't force it!

End Result

Once you've completed the 3 steps above, your home page, main category pages, sub-category pages, brand pages and maybe even a handful of product pages will be keyword-optimized for the best keyword phrases in your niche. Now your site is truly done! 😉 And as an added bonus, you'll have a list of additional keyword phrases you can target in blog posts and/or articles and buyers guides later on. Sweet!

Other Tasks to Launch Your Store

Okay, gang, in this final section of Chapter 6, we’re going to bang out a small handful of quick tasks to finish out the Store Launch Sequence and send you on your way. Let’s get to it!

Submit Your Product Feed File to Free Shopping Portals

Free shopping portals likely won’t send you a ton of traffic, but the traffic you do get from them is 1) quite targeted, 2) high-converting and 3) free. So why not, right? 🙂

Most new-age shopping carts have a product feed generator that creates your product feed file for you, and most free shopping portals have a feed "grabber" that automatically pulls in your feed file. So submitting your product feed to free shopping portals is as easy as 1-2-3…

  1. Within your shopping cart’s admin panel, click a button to auto-generate your product feed file (make note of the URL of the file your shopping cart creates)
  2. Create an account at each of the shopping portals you want to submit your feed file to
  3. Within each account, provide the URL of the product feed file

At a bare minimum, we recommend submitting your feed file to Bing, though there are several "second-tier" free shopping portals you may also want to get listed in as well.

Pro's Edge: Adding Your Products to Bing for Free

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Submit Your Site to the Dmoz Directory

Once upon a time, it was a good idea to take a couple hours to submit your site to all kinds of directories on the web (of which there are thousands and thousands). But (semi-)recent updates to Google's algorithm have made most all of these directories pretty worthless (some could even be viewed as "spammy" by Google). So nowadays, we only bother submitting our site to Dmoz. Just follow the instructions on this page to add your site to Dmoz. It's free and should only take a few minutes.

Write and Post a Buyers Guide and an FAQs Page

I know you’ve written a lot of content to get to this point, but I want you to write just a little more. 🙂 I just want you to write an FAQs page and maybe a Buyers Guide for your customers (knowing that Google is also going to love you for it).

What should you write about? Just put yourself in the shoes of your customer and consider what kind of information will help them find the right product and decide which product will meet their needs, solve their problem and fit within their budget. Here are a few quick ideas just to get your brain pumping…

  • Compare brand A to brand B
  • Compare the “economy line” to the higher-end models
  • Explain the difference (in lay man’s terms) between technology A and technology B
  • Compare style A to style B
  • Compare products made out of material A to products made out of material B

A great place to get ideas for buying guide topics is Yahoo Answers. Just do a quick search for your main keyword phrase and take a look at commonly asked questions relating to your product line. If there's not enough to say about a particular topic to make a stand-alone buying guide out of it, just have it be one of the Q&As on your FAQs page.

You’ll definitely want to link to these buying guides in the footer of your store. And in some cases, it will also make sense to make mention of these guides and add links to them within the textual content of your home page and/or category pages (and possibly even on some product pages).

Set Up a Newsletter

It’s much easier to sell something to a customer who has already bought something from you than it is to go out and acquire a new customer. That’s why having a newsletter is so important. Even if you’re selling a product line that doesn’t really lend itself to repeat customers (and most of you will probably be in this boat), I still recommend taking the time to set up a newsletter. It will take you 5 minutes, and it’s free.

You don’t have to feel like you need to send out a "monthly newsletter" or even every 3 months or 6 months. For most of our stores (which sell “one and done” products customer’s aren’t likely to buy very often), we only mail out to our list every year or so (i.e. at the beginning of Christmas shopping season). But that annual mailing usually results in a handful of sales, which makes it well worth the minimal time and effort it takes.

MailChimpWe recommend using MailChimp for 3 reasons: 1) it’s completely free (until your list becomes quite large), 2) it’s pre-integrated into almost all shopping carts, and 3) it’s super intuitive and easy to use. Linking your MailChimp newsletter account to your store is as easy as inserting a couple of ID #s (i.e. keys) into the right fields within your shopping cart admin panel.

Recommended (but Not Required): Create a Custom 404 Error Page

Review the Complete Store Launch Sequence

Before you move on to Phase 3, cruise down through this complete list of tasks to make sure you’ve completed the entire Store Launch Sequence…

  1. Create a Google account for your website/business
  2. Activate Google Analytics (GA) and insert the tracking code into your site (make sure it’s on your blog, too)
  3. Activate Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) and submit your sitemap
  4. Insert the Google Publisher Tag on your site
  5. Activate Google Merchant Center (GMC) and, optionally, start Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs)
  6. Activate Google AdWords
  7. Activate Google Mail (Gmail)
  8. Create a Twitter account for your website and configure your profile page
  9. Create a Google+ page for your website and configure your profile page
  10. Create a Facebook page for your website and configure your profile page
  11. Consider creating a Pinterest and/or LinkedIn account as well, if applicable
  12. Set up and configure your on-site blog
  13. Perform expanded keyword research and keyword-optimize additional top-level pages on your site
  14. Submit your product feed file to free shopping portals
  15. Submit your site to Dmoz
  16. Write and post a Buyers Guide and an FAQs page
  17. Set up your newsletter

Once you’ve completed all the above tasks, your store is officially launched and you’re ready to open for business and start making sales & profits!

Want Me to Review Your Website?

Expert Site ReviewNow that your store is complete and you’ve completed all the launch tasks, it’s the perfect time to consider ordering an expert site review. I’ll spend a couple hours to carefully review your site and prepare a detailed, custom report listing out any problems I see and anything you may have overlooked. The report will also contain a list of specific action items you can take to keyword-optimize your pages better, make it more friendly for customers, achieve a high conversion rate and otherwise improve your site. I’ll also evaluate whether your site may be over-optimized, which can lead to poor rankings and even a Google penalty.