Merchant Processing 102

November 29th, 2013 by

Shopping Carts, Gateways and Payment Processors: Anatomy of an Online Purchase

Merchants should understand the value of operating in multiple channels. For those who haven’t yet incorporated e-commerce into their business but want to, there is much to learn.

With a little research and education, merchants can find the best providers to accommodate their business needs and those of their consumers.   It just makes sense — e-commerce provides merchants an opportunity to make more money and succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

What Makes an E-Commerce Solution Possible?

In addition to the range of software and hardware that companies use to support the sale of products and services online, there are three vital components that make online shopping possible: the shopping cart, payment gateway and payment processor.

Shopping cart:  

The shopping cart acts quite literally as a virtual shopping basket. It holds the items customers select from a Web site until they are ready to proceed to the checkout stage, where their credit card information will be processed. The shopping cart:

o         Keeps track of items until they are purchased

o         Automatically totals the amount of a customer’s order, including shipping and tax

o         Allows shoppers to securely enter address and credit card information

Payment Gateway:

In order to accept credit cards through the Internet, a payment gateway is critical to transport the credit card information from the shopping cart to the payment processor once the consumer clicks the “Buy” button. In most cases, this transaction happens almost instantaneously. The payment gateway receives encrypted transactions from the merchant’s shopping cart.   An encrypted transaction simply means that credit card numbers can’t be read by people who are not supposed to read those numbers.   Authentication is then provided and the decrypted payment information is transmitted for authorization. The payment gateway:

o         Fulfills the same function as a point-of-sale (card swipe) terminal at a physical retail location

o         Takes information provided through a shopping cart and transmits it electronically and securely to a payment processor to be routed for authorization of payment

Payment Processor: 

The payment processor transmits a customer’s credit card information via the Internet to the merchant bank for authorization. It also sends data back to the merchant’s bank to approve payment or the transfer of funds. A payment processor:

o         Acts as a link from the merchant to the acquiring bank or merchant bank

o         Receives information from the merchant through the payment gateway and packages the information for delivery to the acquirer, ensuring that all necessary transactional data is present and valid

o         Later transmits information back from the acquirer for delivery to the merchant to settle the transaction

Call 877-627-2492 to discuss your eCommerce plans today.

Customer Relationship Management CRM

November 29th, 2013 by

Customer Driven CRM

Customer driven CRM means that organizations first understand the customer, then move inward to operations.

  •  What will they buy, when, why and for how much?
  • What creates value for them, and does this create a structural bond?
  • What services can we perform that merit premium margins?
  • Can we establish a new market segmentation strategy focused on potential profitability and willingness to purchase?
  • Do we understand their business drivers, financial metrics, buying process and decision criteria?

A decade of CRM has taught us that nothing happens until your people interact with the customer in a manner consistent with new CRM customer strategies and systems.

And, finally, you should be well positioned to apply predictive modeling algorithms to establish a financial model with exceptional accuracy.

Not an easy task, but case studies are proving financial predictions that can demonstrate account-level forecasting with over 80 percent accuracy.


Here’s a simple framework for CRM:

  • Focus on financial results: Learn how to identify existing profitable customer segments and determine what will establish a profit-based profile for moving forward. Then develop the business requirements to support sustained, and structurally bonded, relationships.
  • Find cost effective alternatives for non-buyers or low-margin customers: Not all customer relationships are profitable and very few companies can afford to pay to deliver an equal level of services. Control costs and save your best resources for premium accounts—while working to bring low performers into an acceptable profit portfolio.



Top 5 Affiliate Program Mistakes

November 29th, 2013 by

Affiliate Managers: Your Top 5 Affiliate Program Mistakes

1. Competing With Your Affiliates

This is by far the worst mistake made by companies that offer affiliate programs.  I often see companies for products I am trying to promote compete with me in the search engine rankings and pay per click advertising programs.

Why companies invest money and resources in competing with their affiliates is beyond me. By competing with me, you’re trying to put me out of business. Have marketing directors ever thought of it in that way? Because if you succeed, you will no longer have an affiliate network to speak of.

The money would be better spent on supporting your affiliate network by creating a better product, providing more referral statistics, higher commission payouts, faster support, and more, fresh promotional creative.

2. Not Providing Your Affiliates With Useful, Real-Time Statistics

All marketers rely on statistics to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. Yet most affiliate programs only provide their affiliates with basic statistics such as number of visitors sent, number of sales, and commission earned.  These statistics aren’t much help to affiliates who want to measure the effectiveness of a particular pay per click campaign.

Affiliate managers – please consider providing these useful statistics so that I can market your products effectively:

  • Archive of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly statistics and by date range.
  • Commission earned, broken down by product or service, and how the customer was referred to the site.
  • Daily email update of all affiliate statistics.
  • Instant email notification of a new affiliate.
  • Instant email notification of a new free trial sign up.
  • Instant email notification of a new sale and all relevant statistics. I love getting new sales notification emails!
  • Number of free trial downloads or subscriptions.
  • Number of returns and all relevant statistics.
  • Affiliate links with trackable IDs, so that affiliates can tell exactly which site, or ad campaign is sending the referrals and sales.
  • Unique clicks – which refers to the unique number of visitors referred – in addition to raw clicks – which refers to the total number of click throughs.
  • A list of top performing affiliate statistics, so that affiliates can compare how they’re doing and which areas they can improve on.
  • Include the most important statistics at the top of the email and subject line. There’s nothing worse than having to scroll down to see what the referral purchased or how much commission I have made.

The following only apply if the affiliate program offers more than one level of commissions.

  • Commission earned as a result of referrals sent by 2nd-tier affiliates.
  • Commission earned, broken down by commission level.
  • Number of 2nd-tier affiliates referred.

3. Not Compensating Your Affiliates Fairly For Their Hard Work

The #1 incentive for any affiliate is cold hard cash. So tell your marketing director to fire the search engine optimization firm and advertising department, and redirect the resources to paying your affiliates a higher commission rate.

4. Not Providing Enough Fresh Promotional Creative.

Most affiliate managers seem to give their promotional creative little thought. All they offer is a handful of 468×60 banners, buttons and text links. What happens is that affiliates end up using the same ads on hundreds, even thousands of web sites.

Affiliate managers – what about these promotional creatives?

  • Articles and tips with embedded affiliate links
  • Classified ads
  • Customer testimonials
  • Direct email ads
  • Email signatures
  • Newsletter ads
  • pay per click ads
  • Pop-up/under ads
  • Product photographs
  • Product reviews
  • Product screenshots
  • Rich-media ads
  • Skyscrapers
  • Staff interviews

Different ads perform better on different sites. And ads generally have a life span of a carton of milk. So offer your affiliates a greater variety of ads, more often.

5. Not Providing Fast, Quality Support For Your Affiliates.

Don’t make your affiliates wait longer for an email reply than it takes to send a letter by snail-mail post.

Don’t outsource your affiliate support work if you can afford not to.  If you have to outsource,  then you must take your time and concentration to train your support staff so that they understand the ins and outs of your products and affiliate program.  Do this with outlined bullet point processes.  I’m often dumbfounded by affiliate support staff who can’t give me answers to simple questions.

Earth Skater’s real time affiliate tracking GETS WORK DONE!

Call 877-627-2492 to discuss your affiliate marketing plan today.

Link Exchanging How To

November 24th, 2013 by

Finding Link Exchange Partner Sites To Improve Your Link Popularity

Link popularity is considered by most search engines to be one of, if not, the most important factor that determines a site’s ranking in the search engines.

Let’s say we have two identical sites. One has thousands of targeted sites linking to it. The other only has a few incoming links. It’s virtually guaranteed that the site with thousands of incoming links will rank higher than the other site.

So how do you find reciprocal link partners?

First, you need to work out what type of web sites would link to your site. Here are some examples of sites and the types of sites that would link to them.

Your Site: Links From:
Pet store Pet lovers’ sites
Web design service Webmaster sites, how to sites
Travel site Local guides, local tourism
PC store Software/hardware review sites
Music store Music fan sites

So how do you find these sites?

In the following examples, we’ll use “pet lovers'” sites as the type of sites we’re looking for.

1. Find targeted sites in the web directories, such as or

Go to a directory’s home page and search with the keywords, “pet lover.” Then click on the category the top listings belong to. The sites listed in these and related categories are the types of sites you need to contact.

If the category has a resources or directories sub-category, then try the sites in those categories first. Resources typically offer links to sites on the same subject.

2. Use search engines to find sites that link to your competitors’ web sites.

Using the search engines is probably a more efficient method of find reciprocal link partners, than searching the directories.

Now make a list of the sites. Then create a links or resources page and carefully craft your pitch to solicit your link to be included on each one of those sites.

Some sites, such as web directories, will not require a reciprocal link. So simply submit your link.

Only exchange links with targeted sites.  Linking to poor-quality or spam sites may affect and typically will affect your search engine rankings.


Under no circumstances should you link to, or add links from, link farms. Link farms are considered as spam sites in the eyes of the search engines.

Call 877-627-2492 to discuss your marketing plan today.

Submitting To Directories

November 22nd, 2013 by

Selecting The Best Category When Submitting To Web Directories

Selecting the best categories when submitting to a web directory, to give your site every chance of achieving top rankings for the keywords you want to target.

Selecting the right category when submitting to a web directory can mean the difference between achieving top rankings and being lost in oblivion.

Don’t think that by paying for your submission, it guarantees top rankings. It doesn’t! The only guarantee you will get is for a review within a certain time limit. If you don’t select the right category, you might as well just be throwing your money out the window.

Here’s how you should find the best category to submit to, in order to give your site every chance of achieving top rankings for the keywords you want to target.

Go to the web directory’s home page and enter in the exact keyword phrase you’re targeting in the search box.

Let’s use the Yahoo! directory as an example. A search for, “cheap Web hosting” returns this page of results:

Take a look at the category link directly underneath the #1 listing, where it says:

“More sites about: Web Site Hosting > Directories”

The majority of the top listings are placed under this category. This tells you that Yahoo! considers this particular category as the most relevant for the keyword phrase we searched for.

Click on the “Web Site Hosting > Directories” category link. This will take you to the sub-category in the Yahoo! directory.

On the next page, take a look at the border at the top of the page that stretches across the screen, directly underneath the banner. It’s in yellow. This indicates that the category is classified as commercial. Non-commercial categories are in blue.

You will also find the listing that you clicked on located somewhere down the page.

There you have it. That’s how you select the best category when submitting to a web directory. You can use a similar technique when submitting to other web directories.


Search Engine User Behavior

November 22nd, 2013 by

The Importance of First Page Rankings

This article summarizes findings of two Penn State University researchers, who analyzed more than 450,000 Web queries submitted search engines in a 24-hour period, reviewing users’ actions in chronological order.

They studied the length of sessions, number of pages visited, and relevance of search results. Their findings were presented in a paper titled “An Analysis of Web Documents Retrieved and Viewed” at the 2003 International Conference on Internet Computing in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here is a summary of their findings:

  • Half of all users entered only one search query.
  • 54 percent viewed just one page of search results per visit to the search engine.
  • Searchers typically visit only the top three search results.
  • About 55 percent of users checked out one result only.
  • Only 19 percent went on to the second page.
  • Fewer than 10 percent bothered with the third page of results.
  • More than 80 percent stopped after looking at three results.
  • Eight out of 10 times, the abstract dissuades searchers from going to a site.
  • Upon clicking through to a site, one in five searchers stay 60 seconds or less.
  • One out of every two search results isn’t relevant to what the searcher was looking for.


Getting your web pages indexed by the search engines is clearly not enough. They must be listed within the first 3 pages of search results, otherwise eight out of ten searchers will never find it. Ideally, you should strive for a first page listing. For best results, a top 3 ranking is needed.  Obviously, any 1st page listing is ideal for your target keywords, any farther down the list the clicks will be minimal.

To enhance your chances of getting your listing clicked, improve your site’s search result abstract by making it more enticing and relevant to the searcher. Many search engines, such as Google, use the contents of your website pages, social media accounts, YouTube videos, and additional META information to rank your website.  So take another look at what you can do on your own to increase your first page keyword rankings.

The findings of this study reiterate the importance of optimizing your web pages for top search engine rankings. Ignore it at your peril.

Call 877-627-2492 to discuss your marketing plan today.

27 Tips To Top Search Engine Rankings

November 21st, 2013 by
  1. Increase your site’s link popularity by increasing your internal and incoming links.
    • Internal links – Cross link all your sites and important pages within each site. This will maximize the PageRank of all your pages within each web site.
    • Incoming links that you control – Create several small web sites related to your main site. Each site should only consist of a few pages. Then cross link them all together using the most important keywords. Don’t forget to include links back to the main site.
    • Incoming links that you don’t control:
      • Ask sites that link to your competitors to link to your site. To find out which sites are linking to your competitors, visit a search engine and enter, “link:” followed by the competitors’ domain name.For example:

      • Exchange links with sites listed in the same category as yours in the major web directories, such as the Yahoo! Directory and the Open Directory.
      • Find sites that accept site submissions. Visit your favorite search engine and search for:

        "add url" "your keywords"

        Also try searching for the actual submission page using its page name.

        For example:

        addurl.html, addsite.html, addlink.html, etc.

  2. Try to avoid stop words in your TITLE tag. Stop words (a, an, and, but, he, her, his, i, in, it, of, on, or, she, the, etc.) are common words and characters ignored by some search engines to enhance the speed and relevancy of their search results
  3. Include a META DESCRIPTION tag, directly after the TITLE tag. Include the most important keyword phrase for the web page as close to the beginning of the description as possible.For example:

    <TITLE>Mike's Marketing Software Tools Reviews</TITLE>
    <META NAME="description" CONTENT="Mike's Marketing Tools is the leading review site for the very best internet marketing tools for web marketers and webmasters.">

  4. If you use a META REFRESH tag, make sure it is set to refresh after 30 seconds.

    <META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="30; URL=">

    Some search engines consider pages that refreshes under 30 seconds as spam. I recommend using a JavaScript redirect tag, if you require a quicker page refresh.

    For example:

    Step 1 – Paste this code into the HEAD section of your HTML document. Change the 3000 to whatever number you like. 1000 represents 1 (one) second.

    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript"><!--
    function redirect () {setTimeout("change()",3000);}
    function change () {window.location.href="";}

    Step 2 – Insert the onLoad event handler into your BODY tag, so that the JavaScript code is executed when the page loads.

    <BODY onLoad="redirect()">

  5. Remove all other meta tags (author, date, etc.), unless you’re sure they are absolutely necessary.
  6. Include a site map with links to all your pages. This will help search engines find and index all your pages.
    • Limit the number of links on a web page to 50.
    • If you have more than 50 links, limit your links to your most important pages.
    • Include text on the page as some search engines, such as AltaVista, have been known to kick out links only pages.
  7. Use one or more header tags in your main page body and include your most important keyword phrase/s.
    • Use large header tags, such as <H1>; and <H2>.
    • Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to alter the appearance of the header tags to fit the look and feel of your site.
  8. Check the first couple of lines of the first paragraph to see if it’s appropriate to be used as a description of your page. Many search engines utilize the first couple of sentences of the body text as the search results description, instead of the contents of the META DESCRIPTION tag.
  9. Try to achieve an overall keyword density of 1-2%.
  10. Try to achieve a minimum word count of 300 and a maximum of 750 words on each page.
  11. Register a domain name with the exact keyword phrase you wish to target, using hyphens to separate the keywords.For example, if the keyword phrase is “search engine rankings,” then register:

    If the domain you want is unavailable, either try a different extension, such as .NET, .INFO, or .US, or add a keyword to the end (preferential) or beginning of the domain.

  12. Name directories after your keyword phrases, using hyphens or underscores to separate the keywords.For example, if an important keyword phrases is, “search engine rankings,” name your directory: or...

  13. Name web pages after your most important keyword phrase. Separate the keywords using hyphens or underscores.For example, if the keyword phrase is “search engine rankings,” then name the page:

    search-engine-rankings.html or...

  14. Name your graphic files after keyword phrases. Again, separate the keywords using hyphens or underscores.For example:

    <IMG SRC="search-engines-rankings.gif">

  15. Include an ALT (alternative text) atrribute in image tags. Include the most important keyword phrases.For example:

    <IMG SRC="search-engines-rankings.gif" ALT="search engine rankings.">

  16. If you use an image map, include HTML links, as some search engines do not follow image map links. Plus image maps do not offer search engines any link text to index. So, try to avoid the use of image maps as they do not help with your search engine optimization efforts.
  17. Use the longer or plural version of a keyword, where possible. Word stemming is a concept used by some search engines to return search results that include keywords that extend beyond what you searched for.For example, a search with the keyword “engine” might return results for, “engines,” “engineers,” and “engineering.” If someone searches for the longer version of a word and your page only uses the short version, then your page will be excluded from the list of possible results.
  18. Sprinkle a few uncommon keywords and synonyms in your main body text. Less popular keywords have less competition in the search engines. So your web page is has a greater chance of being listed amongst the top results.
  19. Do not repeat keywords or keyword phrases over and over again on a web page, as this would be considered as spam by search engines.
  20. Keep your pages as close to the root domain as possible. Do not set up more than 3 directory levels.For example: (1st level - excellent) (2nd level - Good) (3rd level - OK) (Too many levels down - search engines will find it difficult to find and index pages this far down)

  21. If you have a persistent (on most or all of your pages) navigation bar at the side of each page, your table is almost certainly set up in such a way that it pushes your page’s body text down the HTML document. Search engines give prominence to keywords nearer the beginning of a HTML document. So, design your HTML table so that the navigation bar is placed after your main body text.
  22. Move Javascript code to a separate file, or the end of the HTML document after your closing BODY or HTML tag. Yes, this technique actually works!Follow these instructions to move the JavaScript code to a separate file and link to the file from the HTML document. Then place the following code in between the HEAD section:

    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript" SRC="file-name.js"></SCRIPT>

    This procedure also reduces your file size, and therefore your download time. In addition, it allows you to reuse the code on other pages by simply link to the JavaScript file. Both of these techniques will move your important body text nearer to the top of the HTML document.

  23. Although not always practical, you may like to try naming your cascading style sheet tags after keywords.For example:

    .search {
    color: #ff0000;

  24. Use Robots.txt files instead of Robots meta tags, as some search engine robots do not recognize the tag.
  25. Do not use font size one (1) text as the default text size. Many search engines consider tiny text to be spam. It’s OK to use some font size one text.
  26. Do not participate in link farms or link exchange programs. Search engines consider link farms and link exchange programs as spam, as they have only one purpose – to artificially inflate a site’s link popularity, by exchanging links with other participants.Do not confuse link farms and link exchange programs with reciprocal linking. Reciprocal linking is the exchange of links with individual sites, and is certainly an accepted technique for improving your site’s link popularity.

Call 877-627-2492 to discuss your marketing plan today.