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My Dropshipping Journey - Ideas & Suggestions Welcome

Discussion in 'My Journey Discussions' started by Brainstorm389, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Brainstorm389

    Brainstorm389 Registered Member

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    Occupation:
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    Location:
    Athens, Greece
    Hello everyone,

    Here's my ongoing journey with a dropshipping website in a niche with a lot of competition and already established players.

    I'm not going to be as detailed as possible because it started a few months ago and I am now in the process of doing SEO and structuring my on-site blog strategy as well as social marketing and general outreach.

    The website has a clean design and uses SSL for all of its pages, accepts paypal & credit cards and has aroun 8500 products which most of them are on stock all the time.

    Products vary from relatively cheap to very expensive and I've chosen not to include any products that have mediocre pictures and/or feel cheap. Delivery times and shipping rates are kept to the minimum and I offer free shipping after a certain amount of spending, because everyone likes "free" stuff.

    Up until now I have done all the dirty work myself which includes :

    1. Data entry -- which was a real pain and is still in progress although it mostly 80% done
    2. Categorization
    3. Banner creation along with the help of my partners
    4. Newsletter subscription, using the Mailerlite platform - really cool -
    5. Plugins installation which included money for testing plugins until I get the right one. Some of which include : Cross selling for products ( add accessories to the main product that is to be bought ), SEO plugin for URL's and meta descritpions/alt titles/images/rich snippets etc, import/export tools, cart abandonment plugins with coupon, analytics integration with search analytics and other goodies, mass discounts on products and a lot other useful extensions
    6. Social media pages creation : Fb page which is updated every day with our "own" recipe for as big engagement as it can, Google+ page with daily updates, Youtube channel with videos of our products that are supplied from the manufacturers ( they are also embedded inside the product's description ), Pinterest ( just started to see how it works ) and Instagram. I don't like Twitter and the twats that are around it, but eventually I will have to make a Twitter as well because I think it's "mandatory" since I have all other social profiles active

    The way I've worked so far is to make my website(s) feel like I myself would buy from it. That's my ultimate test, on any page I created so far. I reached to a point where I could easily say that I would trust my money on this e-shop. I've also given the link to random friends without saying the site belongs to me and they liked it pretty much. Each of them actually gave me a different reason as to why they like it so this kind of boosted my confidence about it. I don't cosnider this a real crash-test though, because the sample is small compared to the actual size of the market it's targetting. So I keep on making changes where I see something that doesn't fit.

    I'm more used to and actually better at everything on-page because I never had to deal with off-page SEO myself. I was always outsourcing it, purely because I couldn't get the results I wanted and I was much more comfortable doing tons of on-page work that actually made a difference at the end of the day.

    The SEO part consisted, so far and up until tomorrow ( changes are coming and I'll write below about it ) the ranking of two keywords with a relatively good average search volume. One proved to be really difficult ( bad keyword research AND expectation on my part ) and the other one was ranked on the second page and now is bouncing between second and third.

    My next steps are the following, please share your ideas and suggestions with me because I'm surely missing something and I want to make the best out of this effort.

    Here we go :

    Keywords
    1. INTENSIVE keyword research with the keyword finder tool. Bought a subscription and I'm using it every day to find keywords.
    2. Create groups of keywords consisting of closely related keywords AND grouped by difficulty.
    3. Examine the competition ( I know most of the e-commerce sites and also most bloggers on the niche along with their weaknesses and strenghts. The stores/shops actually have mostly strenghts because they're in the multi million dollar segment of the market, so I try to learn/copy from them and adapt for my smaller piece of the overall target group ) and check on which keywords I can provide better and more specialized/branded/deluxe products
    4. Try to think of alternative keywords and find a formula ( on my head ) that will let me recognize my possibility of easy ranking so that I focus my effort on that part. Any ideas on that part welcome.
    5. For example, a 200 search/month keyword could be very hard to rank with small gains and a 1500 search/month keyword could have less difficult competition and a bigger chance to make some cash because of my catalog's versatility and unique product availability. I'm finding it difficult to "sniff" those opportunities.
    Blogging
    1. There's a blog inside the e-shop for which I have a content writer and I've given him the following schedule :
    2. 4 articles of 1500 words each for keywords of low-medium competition ( rarely high competition as well but it needs to be something that I HAVE to do because of the niche - for example some topics are inevitable to not have a blog post about no matter what )
    3. Of course they will be fully SEO optimized with the main keyword in the url, titles, meta tags of images, probably I'll throw a youtube video as well if there's anything related, and lots (???) of interlinking for categories and/or other articles
    4. That gives us a total of 6000 words on these 4 articles alone

    1. 8 Smaller articles up to 800 words each that will target relatively easy/easier keywords regardless of the search volume/month and are more targetted in terms of a specific category and/or product. Also, I will showcase tips and tricks on how to do/use something, and they will be of relevance to the big articles so that I have them linked together in order for the user to keep reading and find useful information.
    2. These are going to target keywords of the type : Best XYZ products below 20$ or 10 Tips to use the XYZ product|category or How to do the XYZ thing and the list goes on.
    3. SEO inside the article will be optimal as well.

    Inforgaphics

    1. I will either buy from fiverr or create myself ( my gf is a graphic designer ), infographics for the above blog posts.
    2. The bigger articles will have a TL;DR type of infographic and the smaller articles will be laid out in a way that most of their content is up there so that whoever is bored and doesn't want to read the whole article, can get that information from the infographic.
    3. Apart from my own social pages, where else is a good idea to share those ingographics?

    Social Sharing

    1. Our facebook page, which doesn't have many likes yet but engagement is good compared to the amount of likes
    2. Google+ page. I saw that after posting a semi-product post ( = a paragraph outlining general information and then tying it to a category/product with use of the "wow" or the feelings factor of the user/viewer ) with two-three pictures, I got a few clicks ( tracked with Bitly ). FB gives us a lot less clicks than G+ and I will start using the Collections feature it has to fill it up with pictures/text/links so it seems like we're super active. We also post semi-related stuff found on the web almost daily, because I think noone likes to see a page with product posts all the time.
    3. Pinterest. Just started to use the platform, never used it before and I think it's worth it. Competitors are very active and have a good following. Your opinion on this?
    4. Instagram. Haven't started yet but will use it mainly to post relevant pictures but not that many products. I want to use Instagram mainly for branding. I'm thinking of 2/10 posts will be related to products/categories and 8/10 will be generally related to my niche. Your opinion on this?
    5. Reddit. I created a user account ( NOT with my brand name -- good or bad? ) just like a regular user who comments and upvotes posts etc. So far so good, I know the niche pretty well so my advice is spot on every time. I have a goal of 5/10 ( probably 6-7 ) posts per day up until the point I have something really good to share. The question is : How do I share something without getting the stigma of a spammer? Because I think that even after the commenting/upvoting on others, there has to be a way to make it seem like I'm not there for promoting my website. I've seen other accounts promote heavily their websites, using their brand names as nicknames, but to be fair they're very old accounts and have a considerable amounts of posts/comments. Should I create a nickname with my brand on it and start from scratch?
    6. Other ideas?

    Product descriptions/Product Reviews

    1. Since the product descriptions are supplied by the manufacturer, I will gradually change every one of them but it will take a considerable amount of time. I'll do it though. I'm thinking of average 150-200 words for "normal" products and full-blown presentation-like descriptions for the very good brand name products which create return and big-spending customers.
    2. I've started reviewing the products and rating them from 3-5 stars. I'm being fair to each product outlining the good, the neutral and the bad points in them so that anyone viewing them can not be actually fooled to buy them, but rather be further educated and make the correct decision. Of course, different aliases and dates for the reviews are used.
    General Outreach/Guest Blogging/Giving Products to Bloggers

    1. I have a very big list of bloggers and blogging sites that either accept guest blogging or are willing to receive products so they can review them. I contacted one so far and intend to contact more within the next month so that I can get backlinks and also mentions. These blogs/websites have around 40-350K traffic per month and I've seen that the bigger the website the more fragmented it is in terms of product reviews so I think they won't say no if I offered them something. I'm trying to choose the ones that can provide a long term collaboration so that links and brand mentions are more often. The one blogger I contacted last week hasn't responded ( yet ).
    2. Fewer offer guest blogging as an option and they don't state their policy on links but I will try to find out and update as soon as I know.
    3. There are many big companies giving products for reviews so I'm going to offer them some top of the line products that the major e-shops don't bother to stock.
    4. Are backlinks from such websites worth the time/money spent on my end? ( I'm going to pay for the product of course so most of the times it's around 50-100$ per product and therefore per link ). Do I need to have a lot of backlinks from sources like this?
    5. Is it worth it to search for websites to issue a press release or something like that ?
    6. One of the blogging websites even has a website review advertising option, but I'm afraid that it's too soon for something like this because I'd like to have at least the major product descriptions changed to something special so that they're more intuitive and of course SEO optimized. I will use that option in the future once I get my first traffic/sales.
    7. What other outreach channels should I consider?

    PBN

    1. I've setup a PBN consisting of 4 websites so far and gradually created links ( max 3 links per website )
    2. All content is and will be unique from my VA
    3. I have a goal of adding 1 or 2 at most, websites each month.
    4. I have a list of expired domains with decent metrics and non-spammy anchor text and I have a diverese hosting/domain hosting profile.
    5. The 5th website is almost ready,all it needs is the setup and the addition of the articles which are already delivered to me.
    6. I have varied content consisting of content related to the website's domain name, and of course related to the domain's topic which is also related to my website's topic.
    7. I have a mixture of 500 and 1000 words articles but I will stick to 1000 words articles from now on.
    8. How many articles per month do you think is OK for these PBN websites? Or once I've sent the link(s) it's OK to leave them as is, and move on to creating the next one?
    9. I tried to make them as diverse and real-looking as possible, with different themes and plugins, bot blockers ( except from Googlebot ), I'm logging into them from my VPN ( does this make a difference? ) and I'm also adding content with images, videos and everything needed to make them look fine.
    10. Do I need to have the same keyword links on all of them if I want to rank for a keyword or should I mix it up with domain-links and also links pointing to my blog posts? I know that spamming one keyword isn't good but what to do when a keyword is proven to be hard to rank?
    General Goals / Next Steps / Summary

    My short-mid term goals is to have another 3 websites added to the PBN, have the first batch of 20-25K words for my articles delivered, write reviews and create the blog infographics.

    Also I need to figure out my social media strategy a bit better and decide which bloggers to contact and which product to offer ( they are picky pricks, most of them ) to them.

    Of course, traffic generation and sales are in the picture as well, but judging from the metrics so far ( 400-500 users/month with a bounce rate of 40-50% -- it was actually bigger ) it seems I have a long way ahead of me. I think that the bounce rate is so high because of the source url of the visitor and because there's not too much traffic yet to have it stabilized so I can have a clearer picture.

    I will post here any updates done daily/weekly to monitor progress and let you guys know what's up.

    I'm open to any suggestions/ideas/discussions and also critique on my strategy. I plan on making this a website with tons of information inside for people to read and decide what's good for them to buy and of course have the opportunity to buy the products they want at a competitive price with a decent customer service.

    Thanks a lot for reading all this!
     
  2. share4win

    share4win Power Member

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    Woooowwww...I love your detailed plan man..definitely your success on the way...So, do you have any customer support people to handle the queries of your store? It seems that it's a toughest part...and also you're drop shipping via aliexpress ? And how much money you've invested as of now?

    All the best and thanks in advance for answering my questions ;)
     
  3. jhakasseo

    jhakasseo Senior Member

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    Wow your journey looks amazing dude. I have few questions though:
    If you are dropshipping via Aliexpress, do they send their brand logo, invoices etc with the product to buyer?
    Since shipping time really sucks, what method/tactics you have used to tell people about delivery?
    What about refund/product returns policies?
    Do you send your buyer invoice after they get the product or prior to that?

    Thanks,
     
  4. Brainstorm389

    Brainstorm389 Registered Member

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    Occupation:
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    Hello guys, thanks for your questions.

    I'm not doing dropshipping with Aliexpress. I have a trading company, LTD, in the UK which allows me to have trading accounts from any wholesaler and this gives me the opportunity to buy anything at wholesale prices. I wouldn't do it otherwise and I don't know/trust Aliexpress enough yet to start something like this. ( nothing bad for anyone who does it of course, it's just not for me, for now )

    The money spent on everything up until the website went live was somewhere around the 3000$ mark.

    1. Premium theme
    2. Around 20 premium plugins that were necessary for the features I wanted to provide
    3. Around 5-10 plugins that were finally not used but I didn't want to find them hacked/cracked/nulled because I don't want to risk anything
    4. Formation of the company
    5. Logo creation
    6. Development costs ( fixes and some updates -- the project was built by me from scratch so for anything I was incapable of fixing I had my developer take care of it )
    7. Credits to the wholesale company so I don't transfer them money for each transaction every time
    8. Misc costs
    Shipping times in my case are not a big issue, although I don't have a clear advantage on my competition on it. Takes about 3 days max for the parcel to reach the client, sometimes could be 2. I will now add the option to ship to the U.S. as well, even though I can't compete with many of the U.S. stores, but I've seen visits from U.S. IPs and since it's not a big deal for the wholesaler to send the packages there, I'll add it as well.

    Customer support is/will be done by me via e-mail and/or live chat feature ( not installed yet but will be during the next days ). I also have a voip phone but I won't use it for that since I can't be stuck waiting for a phonecall and I mostly bought the number in order for a big directory to be able to feature my listing in their website and for the SSL certificate to be confirmed it belongs to my company.

    Refunds, when it's going to happen ( it will, that's for sure ) are going to be handled in a customer-centric way. I can't afford to lose many customers so if something is broken or is broken when still on guarantee, I'll just refund/change the product for them. From what I've seen from real life retail, it might suck to have to refund or give a replacement to a customer ( because most of them are pricks more or less, in any market and niche ) but most probably the customer will buy even more after the incident. So they're eventually spending more and know that you won't turn your back on them.

    Returns won't/cant be accepted once the product is opened. If the product hasn't been opened then it can be returned and the standard procedure will be followed.

    Anything else you might need to know, I'll be glad to help.

    Later today I'll probably write more on what steps are going to be done next and have a list of questions for anyone wanting to help, since I have some stuff I would like to hear a second opinion about.

    Cheers!
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  5. Brainstorm389

    Brainstorm389 Registered Member

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    Small update ( More updates to be posted during the days )

    Installed a live chat extension which was found by chance and I find it to be among the best I've tried. AND it's completely free. Found it after clicking on a newsletter from my old dedicated server provider ( which in turn is really good for unmanaged servers -- server4you.de )

    The application can be found here, I have no affiliation with them : https://www.tawk.to/

    On the marketing strategy, these days I'm focusing on keyword research + blog posting as well as changing my strategy with FB and other social media accounts since I don't get the results I want yet so there's need to stir things up a little bit.

    Will keep the thread updated once I get more free time.
     
  6. SeanVX

    SeanVX Junior Member

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    Love the detail so far!

    Definitely keep us posted!
     
  7. Brainstorm389

    Brainstorm389 Registered Member

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    Thanks man. The project is fairly hard for me because it's a market I haven't targetted before ( geographically wise ) and a lot of work needs to be done.

    Today's update :

    Ordered a total of 6400 words for on-page category descriptions and 4 ( four ) articles of 1500 words average,each, to my content writer.

    The articles' subjects are about low competition and high traffic keywords, marked as easy-possible to rank ( in Kwfinder ). My site is strong on these categories with lots of ( good ) products.
    The category descriptions are small texts of 70-80 words ( max ) and is a good test for me to see if the writer can deliver content without much research, keyword and meaning-wise. ( although so far, he's been pretty solid and I'm very satisfied )

    Things I'm working on :

    1. I will be working on structuring the social strategy today and tomorrow with my partner, because we need more exposure and we need to utilize everything there is to increase branding/traffic.
    2. I will also be working on adding some product characteristics on every product in the e-shop such as material, colour etc. They're mostly ready from the wholesaler and I'll just import them but there is a big amount of products and I need to make sure everything is imported correctly.
    3. Add U.S. shipping and update my shipping page to reflect the changes
    4. Create a business card for the e-shop because I can give it on my daily job to anyone who's interested and also to do some offline marketing ( the least I can do at first )
    5. Decide on 3-4 designs of infographics so I either buy them or create them in order to transfer the article into an infographic for lazy readers and of course for branding/sharing purposes.
    6. Make a list of questions for the BHW community in order to seek help/opinions on certain matters.
    7. Write reviews on the products that are part of the categories my writer is writing the articles for. It's also a way for me to create more content at least on the product reviews ( at first ) because I find copywriting either too exciting or deadly boring ( I'm either writing all day and night for weeks/months or just find excuses to avoid it lol ) so now that I HAVE to do it, it will be done properly.
    That's it for now.
     
  8. Brainstorm389

    Brainstorm389 Registered Member

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    Brief update ( more to come since I've been working a lot lately )

    Had my first sale ( not a friend or anyone I knew ), from a customer in the region/area I'm targetting. :)

    Traffic is still low but I have plans on changing the whole SEO campaign and will update the thread with all recent changes accordingly.
     
  9. washand

    washand Regular Member

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    Congratulations on your first sale