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My online sales over the past year are down by almost half.... what am I doing wrong?

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  • My online sales over the past year are down by almost half.... what am I doing wrong?

    I have an online ecommerce store selling boutique dog products and over the last 5 years, my sales have consistently gone up and up and up (doubling, tripling, quadrupling) each year. About late summer of 2013 I started to see a decrease in traffic and sales and slowly over the past nine months, sales and traffic are slipping consistently and by the thousands of dollars each month. I don't know what I am doing wrong? All I do is work on content, blog entries (both internally and also on a word press blog), etc…. I know my site needs a makeover and I don't have a huge link profile but I can't imagine that would cause this huge decrease. It's so depressing. When I started to notice the decline, I ended up hiring (for the first time ever giving up some of my control because I always did and do everything myself), a few different foreign "SEO people". All that did was seem to make things worse so I stopped immediately. One was getting me bad links I think, but I really couldn't be sure, maybe both. I am at the point of doing everything myself again but not really sure where to go from here and looking for any advice I can get. I am open to all ideas and any help? This is my lively hood and I have a young child to support and this is starting to get really depressing. I am a hard worker if I would just know what to do.

  • #2
    First suggestion is to post your store url here.

    Packaging and Shipping Supply Specialists


    • #3
      Woops.... Www.


      • #4
        Looks like Amazon sells a lot of your stuff, have they always been one of your competitors?


        • #5

          Whenever my sales change drastically drop suddenly I study my Google data in Webmaster Tools and Analytics. Look at the data over time. Find where the drop date was and then look for clues. Did Google unleash an algorithm update during that time frame that coincides with your drop? Are your crawl errors corrected regularly? Are the errors in GMC corrected regularly?

          Looking at your Google stats should be your first step. Then, if you can't figure it out, try a free service like Website Grader to discover areas of improvement.

          Look at your competition. Who are they? Are you priced competitively with them? Are they doling something you're not?

          Consider dropping your site into one of the new responsive templates. I suspect that your potential customers shop on mobile devices. If your site is not mobile friendly, they will leave. I'm preparing for that upgrade myself.

          Regards....good luck with your search for answers that work.


          • #6
            Some suggestions, don't know if they will help.

            Try using the full page of your website. Add colors that pop.

            Break up your return policy a bit, it seems to read all one paragraph.

            Is the restock of 25% standard for your industry? Seems a bit high.

            Put your method of payments on your footer so that customers can see it no matter what page they are on.

            Make sure that you are taking as many payment methods as possible, variety is key.

            Just some thoughts. Good Luck.

            Packaging and Shipping Supply Specialists


            • #7
              Unfortunately, you're pretty much done. Once Google decides by their signals you're not worthy of ranking, the slow decline begins until you're pretty much gone. Thousands of visitors a day dwindles to 100-200 a day. Don't spend money on SEO. They'll all take your money with no accountability and you'll see no rebound in traffic.

              Do your reading about Google, their algorithm changes, and the chance you'll turn it around. You'll see this is an all too familiar "slow death by Google" that their is no recovery from. A penalty or definitive problem where traffic drops one day off the ledge would be recoverable...... the slow Google death is not. As slowly as the death has been over a year or more, the recovery will be that slow or slower if it happens. You're not going to be anywhere near where you were anytime quickly if ever.

              Lots of theories out there in SEO land. One of which is Google is very discreetly filtering the little guy, the guy who doesn't do much adwords advertising or does none, to the back of the search results. The result being the big brands spending the money in ads get more traffic, more sales return on their investment, more money, and advertise even more. Sad story, but I'm a believer in that theory as is has happened to me on two sites already. They won't say they are doing it, but somewhere locked in a vault is an email from the top telling people below them to reward their advertisers more. That's not saying if you go spend massive dollars with them you'll recover...... but you get the idea of where Google is headed. They already have taken their shopping feed from free to "pay for play" bidding. Why wouldn't they slowly do same in a roundabout way with the organic results?

              I would spend your efforts and money on a new site and new domain before the other one dies completely. DO NOT redirect links and products from the old to the new. Whatever they don't like about your current site will indeed follow to the new site if you simply redirect everything.

              I have never ever ever had any warnings or manual Google penalties in webmaster tools. But, nothing I have done on either site over the last 2-3 years when the slide began has made a difference. Site cart change, site design change, url style changes, titles/descriptions optimizing, starting and doing a good deal of social networking, blogging, content additions, link disavows. I've done it all..... and nothing. Like i said, I'd have been better off getting notified of a definitive problem penalty and fixing it. The slow death march is way worse.

              It's sad Google is able to control one's life. You and I aren't the first, and we surely won't be the last.

              Don't go to the Amazon monster. God forbid you own inventory to sell on Amazon. If you sell on Amazon, drop-ship only! They take a nice commission from you, see you're doing well with certain items with their sophisticated tracking methods, and then go buy the items themselves and sell against you. They know how many you sold in what period of time. They go to the mfg and say "We'll commit to 1000 pieces over the next 365 days, we want a better price". So you gave them money to find out what sells and what doesn't and then they come and kill you.... making it impossible to see the inventory you have when they offer it at retail for less than it cost you to buy it. That's another sad story..... what a racket that is.

              Well, sorry for the gloom and doom. But it's reality.


              • #8
                Google Death March

                I believe theblademan had some vaid points. I do not believe your situation is hopeless. Yes, dealing with Google is frustrating! They take a lot of data from our sites, and they only give clues on what we can do to fix them. When sales start to slide, you must deal with the situation immediately. Google does not like being ignored! I always start by researching my Webmaster Tools data. When did it start? What did I change or what requirements did Google change?
                • As I previously stated, drop your site into one of the new responsive templates. Get rid of ALL text references to free shipping.
                • Review your custom titles. Make sure they are keyword-rich. Limit using your domain name there. You need variety/variations.
                • No need to repeat the "superior customer service" text. If you have it, your customers will find out.
                • Clean up your home page. Get rid of all the "fluff".
                • Bigger (wider, not necessarily full-screen, but at least 980px) site - bigger images - ability to enlarge images. Images sell products online. Small images won't do. Good quality, enlargeable images are needed.
                • No need for social media links twice on any page.
                • Nix the email response message on the home page. It is "negative" to the customer and irrelevant to Google. IF you must use it, save it for the Contact Us page.
                • Review your keyword use throughout your site. Be consistent in using the keywords and phrases you want to be found with, including minor variations.

                I have overcome every "slide" Google has thrown at me. Although my PR is not great, I am running on par and above with my competition because I have been aggressive in fighting back. You can overcome this. Start by getting rid of the free shipping text. Google does NOT like that message in text. Use an image IF necessary.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by celebra1 View Post
                  As I previously stated, drop your site into one of the new responsive templates. Get rid of ALL text references to free shipping.

                  Mostly very good points, but do you have anything to back up the suggestion that Google hates the text "free shipping"?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by celebra1 View Post
                    As I previously stated, drop your site into one of the new responsive templates. Get rid of ALL text references to free shipping.
                    @cbsteven It's pretty crazy how Google Shopping Policies are easily misinterpreted... Actually the policy celebra1 is referring to has to do with store owners including free shipping in listing titles. See Google's Policy on product titles and descriptions and more, under the "Relevance, Clarity, and Accuracy" tab.

                    Originally posted by Google

                    Product listings must be relevant, clear, accurate, and descriptive of the products offered.

                    • Product listings must directly relate to the content on your landing page. When users see your product listing, they should be able to understand what kind of product they'll find on your site.
                    • Product listings shouldn't include additional details about free shipping, billing information, promotions, stock information or your store's policies.
                    • Product listings shouldn’t contain any promotional text, boilerplate text or simulate email inbox notifications.
                    • Product listings can't use call-to-action phrases such as "click here" or "click +1" that could apply to any product listing, regardless of content. This includes phrases in the third line of your product listing that lead into your display URL, such as "See this site."

                    We've created this policy to help our users find clear, accurate information about the products or services they're looking for.
                    So yeah, don't include the any extra stuff in listing titles. This is notorious on sites like Esty and Ebay, which is where all the heat came from.
                    Last edited by kylem; 06-26-2014, 02:39 PM.


                    • #11
                      Free Shipping Text

                      cbsteven, the crackdown on using that text started at least 2 years ago (before the taxonomy requirement) while I was on another server. The policy was not clearly stated at that time, but I recall the discussions about it. Many sites' online visibility plummeted when the policy began. There were experiments I know of to convert all those messages to images, use a category called Free Shipping, etc. The consensus at the time was that only images didn't incur penalties. This was found using an informal test by myself and several other merchants. Google stated at the time that the listing itself must convey the message about the product itself: detailed product description, features, price, relevant images, etc. Shipping messages were to be found on a shipping policy page. The sites using the Free Shipping category OR the Free Shipping text continued to plummet. The sites using an image began their recovery. Google has since refined this policy, as kylem referenced, but did not cite.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kylem View Post
                        See Google's Policy on product titles and descriptions and more, under the "Relevance, Clarity, and Accuracy" tab.
                        @celebra1 I most certainly did cite :)


                        • #13

                          kylem did cite the reference. "I" missed seeing it. Sorry.


                          • #14
                            Times they are a changin'

                            To be honest, I like your colors they are very cowgirlish.
                            I've been online with a western Christmas business since 1998. I've seen a few changes.
                            One overall change that I noticed with Google is they used to be very website content oriented in returning search results, they used to care if a site had something to share rather than 100% sell. It was a great system, search results were based on relevance and a well rounded site was rewarded with higher rankings. Now, no matter what you search for, results give you, Amazon & big box stores and for some annoying reason, Just a little behind that are local stores. So I rank high up if someone from Tucson searches for a Cowboy Christmas store. But if someone from TX does the same search, I do not do as well. That's what has hurt me. Most of my business comes from out of state. Insult to injury, I don't have a storefront in AZ, but Google mapped my mailing address and I get angry calls from people driving around trying to find the store. I had to rent some space in a co-op just to have someplace for people to go.
                            I agree with Blademan, it seems the smaller businesses are getting shorted and I too, have nothing nice to say about selling on Amazon.
                            I did find Google very helpful in one respect. Setting up product feed. If you call them, they will help out but I think you need an ad words account and be logged in to it when you click on "contact us". I did not even have ads running at the time.

                            We do have some thing on our side. Our numbers. The 3dcart family must be huge. What if we networked? Liked each others Facebook pages, linked with compatible 3d sites, pinned a few pictures. Maybe even shopped each others sites.
                            To that end Diva, I did visit your site and Facebook & Pinterest and would be happy to exchange links. BTW I posted on Facebook, the doggie Christmas dress but it looked like the description was for a different product so I left that part off. We are North Pole West Cowboy Christmas Ornaments and Decorations
                            So, 3dcart, if you are reading this, how about in your next newsletter asking for any sites that might want to network? What a great perk!


                            • #15
                              I'll throw in my two cents about Amazon.

                              Our website sales peaked in 2010 and have declined since then by a significant amount, although they are now pretty stable. Out of quasi-desperation we started listing on Amazon in Jan 2013, and I wish we had done so way sooner. Selling on Amazon has approximately tripled our revenue.

                              It isn't for everybody, and luckily we don't have to hold any inventory. If I did I would be more concerned. But so far it's been 18 months of great sales.