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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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Friday, February 05, 2016

Puzzling Models

I keep saying that I need to find a reliable new product line, like Switchables and bird kites are and Panther Vision caps used to be. Some experiments (like chrome auto emblems) fizzled and I haven't had a major new score in years. I can't shake the feeling that the solution might already be in my cellar: Metal Earth models. (What, you thought this was going to be about fashion?)

I love these things because they're uniform, lightweight, easy to ship, and indestructible; they have zero defects and no batteries to wear out and require virtually no storage space; and their vendor is easy to order from. My customers usually buy more than one model and some become repeat customers; a wide range of subjects appeals to nearly everyone. In the last 30 days my Product Listing ads bought 210 clicks (out of 20,000 impressions) at 15 cents apiece, and I could get a lot more with a higher bid. Yet all of those clicks only brought two conversions. Spending $32 to generate two sales of a product that can sell for as little as $6 doesn't cut it, and the 1% conversion rate is only half of normal.  My more expensive Search Network ads get so many hits that I can't even afford to turn them on. Shoppers seem to be interested year-round and there's more search traffic than I can handle...so why do they only ever sell during Christmastime? 

I had thought that people only regard them as gifts. Everyone thinks that somebody else will like them, but very few people ever buy them for themselves. There's certainly some truth to that, but it doesn't explain the ocean of search traffic. 

None of my pages appear in the first 10 pages of organic search results. Why does Google hate my pages? They show up when I search on "Metal earth curio city", so they're obviously being indexed. Metal Earth pages aren't any different in kind from Switchables pages, and those rank pretty well, so I don't think there's a technical fault. If there is, I don't know what needs fixing, much less whether my rudimentary technical skills could handle it within the limitations of my shopping cart. As much as I'd love to get at least some free traffic, the dearth of organic search doesn't explain why paid visitors aren't biting. My competitors' pages don't look any better than mine do, to me...but I'm a lousy judge of what appeals to people. 

Maybe I'm just being out-competed. The competitors who rule page one of a search include such 900-pound gorillas as Amazon, Target, Wal-mart, Game Stop (are they really still in business?), and Thinkgeek, all of whom can afford to undersell me and/or give away free shipping or have splashier websites. I can't compete with those big boys, and in any case one of Curio City's guidelines has always been "stuff you won't see at Wal-mart." So maybe this product line just isn't right for me in spite of its considerable appeal. 

Finally, my selection could be better. I only carry about half of the 150 models that are available, I lack many of the newest and most popular designs, I can't keep up with the steady pace of new releases, and I don't have nearly enough money to fix any of that. The $600 that I already spent on models this month hasn't brought a single sale, February sales are always crap, and my tax deadlines get closer every day.  

In spite of all this, my gut says that I should keep flogging it. At worst, those dollars aren't dead, they're merely resting. I'll recoup the investment next Christmas. And I do have one ace up my sleeve. In a couple of weeks, Souvenirs.nyc is going to start selling 36 Metal Earth models that have (some very loose) New York City connections. That store is strictly a dropshipper, and I'm the guy who's going to fulfill their Metal Earth orders. I think that I can do it profitably, possibly while driving some traffic to my own site. Curio City will be essentially invisible in this partnership, but observant customers can see the name on the shipping label. The fellow behind Souvenirs is really good at marketing and Web optimization -- my weakest suits -- while I'm pretty good at order fulfillment and inventory control. This partnership might be the kick in the pants that gets Metal Earth off the ground, or at least generates enough cash to expand my selection. 

By the way, I haven't completely given up on those chrome auto emblems that I linked in the first paragraph. They're a lot like Metal Earth in that they only sell around Christmas and my selection is too small, and they have the same storage and shipping appeal. I've wanted to expand those for a couple of years now, but there's never enough money. And that won't change while I concentrate on Metal Earth.  

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