One Product eCommerce, One Year Later

April 13th, 2008 by Chris

This blog post will be part rant. I get frustrated sometimes. I don’t necessarily think I’m anything special, what I do does not seem special to me, and yet examples repeatedly crop up and make me think I must be a genius compared to so many other people. Namely the fact that I can walk down the street and think of new original website ideas, and other people apparently only are able to copy the ideas from others.

Is it really so hard to think of an original idea or angle? Apparently so, for what I had feared did come to pass. As you may recall in my original introduction to this site I said that while I was going to be upfront with everything about it, I hoped that no one would decide to merely copy me, and instead use my method as inspiration to come up with their own angle or product.

Yet, one loser did copy my site, and not only did he copy it, he asked for advice on it here in the forums, he spammed my blog to promote it, and on other forums he more or less assumed my identity by appropriating my gardening inspiration for making the site, and my webmaster inspiration for making the site. He was so dishonest he could not even admit on a money making forum that he stole the idea, and instead had to copy elements from my initial blog post to tell to others to talk up his own ego. Then, on a gardening forum, he also copied elements from my initial blog post explaining how he was looking for a tumbler for his own garden. This type of blatant dishonesty is so extremely annoying and it really ground my gears.

This episode has also really been the last straw for me on two fronts. I had always considered officially registering the copyrights to my sites, but it was always something I put off. No longer, had I registered the copyright to my compost tumbler site I could have bullied this weasel for what is likely all his cash, when you officially register your copyrights you can get statutory damages, the threat of which is usually enough to get a fat settlement check from the fool dumb enough to copy your intellectual property. Ask anyone who had stolen images from Corbis. Without an official registration you can only get actual damages (his pitiful profits) and an injunction (aka, get his website taken down, which is something I accomplished with DMCA notices anyways). I will be writing a long article on copyrights and registrations soon, based on what I learned in this process.

The second thing is I do not think I will share any more new sites publicly again, everything just ends up being copied. Probably one of the biggest mistakes I made was sharing the money making potential of my coupon site (which I had stumbled across through revenue experimentation on another of my sites). When I did so there were less than 10 main sites out there competing, afterwards it blossomed into hundreds, I had one Indian group rip off multiple of my sites to copy my cross linking methods. The competition surely hit my rankings and my income. I will of course continue to share things in the private area of Website Publisher’s forums, but not publicly in blogs and what not.

However, I did say I would share information from my one product ecommerce site, and so, here I am, one year later.

The site has been a tremendous success. Surprisingly enough it hasn’t even been seasonal, I figured mostly lots of sales in the Spring, and not much the rest of the year. I was wrong. In fact December has been one of my highest sales months so far (apparently, all the cool gardeners want compost tumblers for Christmas).

Since it started just a year and a week ago (more or less) I’ve had over 340 sales. That averages just under 1 a day, and for most of the year I had poor search engine rankings. My rankings have really started coming on strong since January though, and I’m now #1 on MSN for my target keywords, and on Google I keep bouncing between 4 and 7. I’m not getting much love from Yahoo, so I do fear an MS/Yahoo merger that could result in MSN ending up with Yahoo algorithm.

Anyways, profit margins are slim on the product which means credit card processing fees hurt my overall margins (the fee of probably around 3% aggregate is on the total cost, not my profit, which is only around 20%. So on a $200 item, the fee is $6, my margin is $40, so the fee is 15% of my margin, yikes!) but what can you do? Still, the site is very profitable for me.

Since the search engine rankings have improved I’ve been doing at least 3 sales a day, some days as high as 5 or 6, and it is still just April, much of the country is too cold to do much gardening yet.

My marketing plan has worked well. PPC advertising was profitable and helped keep the sales coming in before my organic SEO started paying off, then of course the plan to reach out to bloggers for reviews has to have contributed to my SEO success, I’ve gotten lots of nice incoming links from blogs (without spamming comments). I’m doing another set of blogger reviews this Spring, which should hopefully help cement my position in the top three of Google.

One thing I regret not doing earlier is to offer a mail order form on the site. Some people prefer to send checks rather than use credit cards online, and when they do so I have zero risk of a chargeback and don’t have to pay any credit card processing fees. Really, a mail order form is a great idea.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that for March (and surely for April) the compost tumbler site beat my sword ecommerce business in total revenue (if not total profit), I really never expected that (though it won’t last, my sword business has new developments that will take off this year). When I made the site I was just hoping for profitability, maybe one sale a day, and averaging three now it is very nice. I’m guessing through the summer, especially if I improve my SERP positions even more, I’ll get up to averaging 5 a day.

Let me take this time now to, yet again, recommend ecommerce. You don’t need a big operation, a small operation selling just one product can work well, especially if you’ve got related content sites for cross promotion. Think of a product or something that would compliment your content sites well, and read the other blog posts and articles I’ve written on the subject. Just don’t copy my sites, please.

3 Responses to “One Product eCommerce, One Year Later”

  1. Gyutae Park  Says:

    Hey Chris,
    That’s unfortunate but I think it’s something that has to be accepted in any business. By sharing details about your sites on a “money making” blog/forum, you really are tempting a lot of newbies to blatantly copy you. Of course they probably won’t see success but it’s something to think about.

    Too much information can actually work against your audience – especially the desperate people who are just trying to start out.

    Other than that, good stuff. Thanks for your honesty.

  2. Kevin  Says:

    Great post. It’s unfortunate that people have copied your websites but thats the way of the web I guess. I used to always add my websites to my signature like yourself but I have stopped doing that for the same reason (particularly with sites which are easily copied).

  3. brent  Says:

    nice to see the DMCA in action.
    i came to your site looking for a one product ecommerce like a shopping cart. what do you recommend if i am interested in a shopping cart but only have one item to sell. what is the best option?

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