Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Advertising on Craigslist

Advertising on Craigslist is worthwhile for just about any business offering products or services. Whether these products are offered through ecommerce websites or physical stores, the business owners can see financial gains through advertising on Craigslist. Unlike other advertising opportunities there is very little risk involved in posting on Craigslist. With the exception of job postings and housing postings in specific markets, advertising is free on Craigslist. Users are asked to agree to the terms of service of the community and are expected to follow specific guidelines when posting advertisements but there are no financial obligations to those placing advertisements on Craigslist. This means those who post advertisements do not have to be concerned with whether or not the advertisement they place will meet their expectations in terms of sales generated.

Reaching Potential Customers on Craigslist

Another reason why posting advertisements for products or services on Craigslist is so worthwhile is the likelihood of reaching a large audience of potential customers. A review of the Craigslist fact sheet reveals pertinent information regarding the amount of traffic the website receives. According to this information Craigslist receives approximately four billion page views each month with ten million people using Craigslist each month. From these statistics it is clear that advertisements placed on Craiglist are likely to receive at least some attention from potential clients.

With so many visitors using Craigslist each month the advertising possibilities are limitless, however, there are no guarantee any of these visitors will be interested in your products or services. Like any marketing campaign, your advertisements on Craigslist must be intriguing, informative and in a location where you will reach your target audience.

Finding Your Target Audience on Craigslist

We've already discussed the number of visitors using Craigslist each month but the key to taking advantage of these numbers is to target your advertising in a way aimed at reaching your target audience as opposed to a wide audience of individuals who have no specific interest in your products or services. It is much more worthwhile to reach a small audience of those with a keen interest in your products or services than to reach a much larger audience of those who are not interested. Those who have an interest in your products or services are your target audience.

The key to reaching your target audience on Craigslist is placing your advertisement in the most appropriate locations. Craigslist has a specific section for businesses to advertise their services. This section is broken down into a number of categories. Those who are in the business of computer repair would be wise to place their advertisement in the computer section as opposed to the automotive section because individuals looking for computer help will naturally migrate to the computer section. It may sometimes be appropriate to place an advertisement in more than one section. This is acceptable as long as it does not cross the line to spamming the section.

If there is not a specific section for the products or services offered by your business there are a couple of options. Business owners can place an advertisement in the section for small business advertisements where it might be found by those doing a search in this section. Alternately the business owner can contact Craigslist to suggest the addition of a new category. They might be willing to oblige if they believe this category warrants an addition.

The Difference between Advertising and Spamming

Advertising on Craigslist is one thing but spamming is quite another. Placing an advertisement in an appropriate section of Craigslist is acceptable; however, placing the same advertisement in nearly every section of Craigslist websites for a number of different geographical regions is considered spam. Spam is ineffective for a number of reasons. First of all potential customers who see a particular advertisement in a number of different locations are likely to recognize the spamming techniques and be less inclined to patronize this business. Also, if Craigslist detects the practice of spamming they may delete all of the postings and could potentially ban advertisements from the individual in the future.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Accepting Credit Cards on your Website

If you are building an online shop, you will need to address the question of taking payments for orders. You can, of course, request that a check payment be sent to you in the mail. Most shopping basket software allows you to select this option when you are setting it up. If you already have an offline, bricks and mortar business, you may simply wish to accept credit card payments over the phone.

However, there are some basic problems with these solutions and it all comes down to the way people shop on the Internet. Customers expect to be able to add items to their basket and proceed to the checkout to pay. If they then find they must telephone you or print out and send their order, they may simply abandon their order and hop over to another website. Shopping online is all about convenience and if you are unable to provide this, you may be losing customers without even being aware of it.

So, what are your options and what is it all going to cost? Well, the good news is you can do it all very simply and cheaply. Paypal does not have a set-up charge and is a large and trusted online payment processor servicing 78 million accounts worldwide in 56 countries. Your only cost is a small percentage on each sale, a transaction charge. Payments from your website go straight into your Paypal account from where you can transfer amounts to your bank account with the click of a button.

Once you sign up with a payment processor, you can either link to their secure server from your shopping basket facility or build 'add to basket' buttons via a simple web query form. The html generated is then pasted next to items on your web page and your customers will be transferred to a secure server when they go to checkout.

Traditional merchant accounts are normally set up through your own bank and will become integral to your business account. Having your own merchant account gives you the choice of many different online payment gateways. Most, however, do charge a set-up fee, monthly fee and a transaction charge. Just as you would offline, do make sure you research any company you sign up with on the Internet. Print out and read their terms and conditions. Take particular notice of where they are operating from, their fees, when and how you will receive your money into your account.

Another point to consider is the question of chargebacks. This happens when a buyer requests a refund of an amount already paid to you. Reasons include not receiving goods ordered or items arriving faulty, damaged or not as described. Sometimes requests are made if the buyer's card was used fraudulently.

If the chargeback request is successful, your merchant payment processor will charge you a processing fee. However, some companies will now provide you with insurance against chargebacks inclusive in your monthly fee. It's certainly worth shopping around for the right solution for you but knowing you have done your research will give you some peace of mind.