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I've been dabbling in this online t-shirt selling game for a few months. Off and on. I had visions of taking the T-shirt Wearing World by storm, but it's turned out, so far, to be more like a pathetic drizzle.

In the last three months I've generated a couple thousand unique hits and sold only a handful of shirts, giving me an almost non-existent conversion rate.

As I said, I entered this biz with high hopes and tons of creative energy. I have literally hundreds--sketch pads full of--more shirt designs, and well over a dozen ideas for entire stand-alone t-shirt sites. However, I'm not spending one more minute (after I finish this post) on t-shirts until a lot more folks start spending some dough to buy them.

Currently, I have three sites. My main site (see my signature), a site with funny dad-related t-shirts, and a new Halloween t-shirt site I just launched. (All can be found from my main site.) Please take a look and tell me, in brutal honesty, everything I'm doing wrong.

Better yet, if someone can tell me (firmly yet kindly) to wake up and get out of this biz, that would be appreciated, too. Because, fact is, my real job is running a semi-successful ad agency and I'd hate to keep neglecting that for some pie-in-the-sky boondoggle.

Thank you for your time!
 

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PB Lab said:
I've been dabbling in this online t-shirt selling game for a few months. Off and on. I had visions of taking the T-shirt Wearing World by storm, but it's turned out, so far, to be more like a pathetic drizzle.

In the last three months I've generated a couple thousand unique hits and sold only a handful of shirts, giving me an almost non-existent conversion rate.

As I said, I entered this biz with high hopes and tons of creative energy. I have literally hundreds--sketch pads full of--more shirt designs, and well over a dozen ideas for entire stand-alone t-shirt sites. However, I'm not spending one more minute (after I finish this post) on t-shirts until a lot more folks start spending some dough to buy them.

Currently, I have three sites. My main site (see my signature), a site with funny dad-related t-shirts, and a new Halloween t-shirt site I just launched. (All can be found from my main site.) Please take a look and tell me, in brutal honesty, everything I'm doing wrong.

Better yet, if someone can tell me (firmly yet kindly) to wake up and get out of this biz, that would be appreciated, too. Because, fact is, my real job is running a semi-successful ad agency and I'd hate to keep neglecting that for some pie-in-the-sky boondoggle.

Thank you for your time!
I actually like your gear. I dont think with any start up business online or otherwise a few months is going to show much profit. Do you try and sell outside the online world?
 

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don't give up just yet. :D

why do you need 3 sites ?

if you were getting 3,000 hits a day and only selling 1 shirt i would worrie.

see if you can get an established site to link to your site in order to increase the dayly hits.

1000 hits per day of potential buyers for what you sell is all you need to earn a living. (in general of course).
 

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Love the web-site, love the designs, do anything else but shut down.
You should hit some flea markets/festivals with business card in hand.
 

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Pete, the designs you have on all 3 sites are awesome. I really mean that. They are so good they are probably being ripped off by other people right this minute. You should be proud.

Now that we've got that out of the way... One order of tough love, coming up!

PB Lab said:
In the last three months I've generated a couple thousand unique hits and sold only a handful of shirts, giving me an almost non-existent conversion rate.
After clicking through your site again, I am not surprised. You did not take our previous advice about fixing it.

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/showthread.php?t=5287

There is still a chunk of random text at the bottom - which now doesn't look like it was put there just for search engines, but still serves no relevant purpose. Some of it would be OK in an "About Us" type page.

When I click on "Customer Service" and "FAQ", I get a message saying you are "working to fix the problem as fast as possible". Obviously I don't believe you, because has been a month since I last saw that page and nothing has changed. How are customers supposed to feel safe about buying from a website that doesn't appear to be finished?

There is a lot of other stuff that needs to be addressed as well, but because I have given you this kind of advice before, I am not going to write it all out unless I actually think you want to hear it. So PM me if you do, and I will be happy to help.

Bottom line - If you fix everything that you should fix, and spend a lot MORE time with marketing, you will be on the right path. If you are the kind of person who can only focus on one thing (designing), then outsource your marketing to someone else - but it is vital that you do market your site, because nobody knows how great PB Labs is until they see it.

If you're not ready to put in a lot more hard work, then yes, you should give up, because no amount of feeling sorry for your poor, unvisited websites is going to make people buy stuff.

All in all, 3 months isn't enough time to know if this is really going to be successful or not. Think about the rest of the things you have done in your life. Anything else you were ready to give up after only trying for a short time? I hope not, or you would be uneducated and jobless!

Anyway, that's all the tough love I can come up with for now. :D
 

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Pete, what suprises me here is that you work for an ad agency. I don't have to explain to a fellow marketer that 3 months isn't even enough time to test the water....

What if Red Bull had given up after 3 months? Things take time, and you should know that. Don't get discouraged! What do your sites offer that others don't? What makes yours special? Find out and exploit this factor. Build a die-hard base of customers, and let them spread the word for you. Good luck!
 

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Jasonda said:
There is still a chunk of random text at the bottom - which now doesn't look like it was put there just for search engines, but still serves no relevant purpose. Some of it would be OK in an "About Us" type page.
That's not random text, that's keyword rich content and it's not for users, it's for the indexing bots. That's also why it's all in very small font size. It's probably good for indexing, yes, but I'd hide it using CSS so it wouldn't be seen by visitors.

PS if you pay attention, PB Lab puts 4 anchor links with different keywords on them linking to the same site. I don't think it would rank that site higher 'cause all 4 links come from the same page. They got to come from different pages, and different websites to boost ranking.

I also don't see a point in making "divisions" - separate sites. All shirts have same style, even though different themes. So they would co-exist on the same site no problem, just under different categories. It's harder to promote 3 sites then 1 site. Plus you will spend 3 times as much money and time on SEO for these sites.
 

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farennikov said:
That's not random text, that's keyword rich content and it's not for users, it's for the indexing bots. That's also why it's all in very small font size. It's probably good for indexing, yes, but I'd hide it using CSS so it wouldn't be seen by visitors.
I know. It's not good for users to see that though, it should be hidden or gotten rid of entirely. No point in getting people to visit your site if they see things they don't like when they get there.
 

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Jasonda said:
I know. It's not good for users to see that though, it should be hidden or gotten rid of entirely. No point in getting people to visit your site if they see things they don't like when they get there.
I agree, I don't like to see that kind of text on websites. I don't care if it's there in the HTML but now that I realize why it's on the page, that it's not really for me to read but for bots to index, I don't like that kind of pages. A little disrespectful to the visitors.
 

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That's not random text, that's keyword rich content and it's not for users, it's for the indexing bots. That's also why it's all in very small font size. It's probably good for indexing, yes, but I'd hide it using CSS so it wouldn't be seen by visitors.
Hidden text with CSS is also not good for search engines. Most of the major bots don't like that (they equate it with spam)
 

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farennikov said:
how can they know, do they like search external CSS file and match up all the CSS tags?
I don't know, those robots are getting smarter and smarter all the time.

I wouldn't chance it.

From this page of Google's Webmaster Guidelines (a page with almost all the SEO information you might ever need):
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769

Quality guidelines - basic principles
  • Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
  • Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
  • Don't use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our Terms of Service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
Quality guidelines - specific guidelines
  • Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
  • Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Don't send automated queries to Google.
  • Don't load pages with irrelevant words.
  • Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
  • Don't create pages that install viruses, trojans, or other badware.
  • Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.
  • If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
If a site doesn't meet our quality guidelines, it may be blocked from the index. If you determine that your site doesn't meet these guidelines, you can modify your site so that it does and request reinclusion.
 

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farennikov said:
That's not random text, that's keyword rich content and it's not for users, it's for the indexing bots. That's also why it's all in very small font size. It's probably good for indexing, yes, but I'd hide it using CSS so it wouldn't be seen by visitors.
Rodney mostly covered this, but this is a bad idea. You want to remove it entirely - Search engines absolutely can detect this technique these days and will mark you down for it; so your indexing trick will actually hurt you more than help.

farennikov said:
I agree, I don't like to see that kind of text on websites. I don't care if it's there in the HTML but now that I realize why it's on the page, that it's not really for me to read but for bots to index, I don't like that kind of pages. A little disrespectful to the visitors.
I actually do care when I notice it, especially when there's a lot of it; of course, the average visitor probably wouldn't notice. If they do though, it looks pretty tacky and just screams to me 'unprofessional' and 'fly-by-night'.

farennikov said:
how can they know, do they like search external CSS file and match up all the CSS tags?
Of course. They "see" what humans see more and more these days. If the text is almost unreadable or invisible (color comparison between text and background), the bots will notice. If there's a high amount of keywords and no logical text, the bots will probably notice that too.

The part Rodney highlighted is definitely a good rule to live by; obviously, you will still be doing SOME things for bots you wouldn't otherwise (e.g. meta tags), but really focus on the human - just make it easy for the bots on the side if you can.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
A million THANK YOUS to you all for your very helpful comments on my sites.

I'm sure I still have some tweaking to do (in fact, I'm contemplating an entire overhaul), but I think I've addressed most of your suggestions.

I've even set up a rudimentary sign up for "the wave," an email newsletter I didn't think I'd get to until next year. I'm shooting, now, for this November. Sign up and hold me to it!

Thanks again, all. T-Shirt Forums is an awesome resource!
 
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