Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lights...Camera...(Cue Chirping Crickets)

November 2005 got pretty crazy. Merchandise started flooding in; I spent many hours photographing it, writing descriptions, and moving it into our cellar. My target opening date, Nov. 7, came and went. Eric (the web developer) was silent; I wasn’t even sure he was working on Curio City at all. When the next Monday, which was my drop-dead date, also slid by, I began to panic in my low-key way.

Finally, Eric broke silence to reveal a nearly-completed website. (It had taken him 99 hours to reach that point, btw). I recruited all of my friends and relatives to stress-test the site on Monday, Nov. 21. I got 13 orders that night totaling over $800, as well as lots of valuable feedback. The prevailing opinion said I didn’t have enough merchandise, so I redoubled my ordering despite having spent my whole pre-opening budget.

That’s when the crickets started chirping.

I’d thought that search engine results would bring at least a little traffic my way, but day after day went by without any sales. I didn’t appreciate, yet, how hard it would be to make my site come up in keyword searches – a challenge that I still haven’t solved.

I sent an e-mail blast to everyone that I knew, and got one more order out of it. I found a site (Addynamix) that let me create a cheesy banner ad and run it for $99. Some software glitch prevented my banner from running for nearly a week. As of Dec. 4, I still had no business at all. I started reading up on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but I was paralyzed into inaction by the complexity and anticipated cost.

At about this time, my sister approached us, in need of some money. She’s at least as web-savvy as I am, so I drafted her to get a handle on PPC advertising for me. That worked out. It was an expensive learning experience, and the clicks were costing me dearly, but I did finally start getting some sales. I had only the most rudimentary traffic information from Navigator’s Webalyzer program. When I complained to Rip, he set me up for AwStats. At last, I was seeing some solid information about my visitors. Alas, AwStats contained a security weakness that allowed someone to attack Navigator’s server; Rip withdrew the tool after only three days. I was back to working in the dark.

Then, on Christmas Eve, the server went down entirely. I had been disappointed with its uptime so far, and this holiday crash was the last straw. With Eric’s help, I moved to MochaHost by Dec. 31. I'm still there. Rip graciously still gives the Kraken Enterprises homepage free hosting at Navigator.

My first Christmas brought in about $1,800 in sales. This December, I will more than double that amount.

Next: Fast Forward to Today

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