Wednesday, January 07, 2009

CafePress Newbie Don'ts

So you are new to CafePress. Let me save you some time and grief by giving you a list of basic CafePress dont's.

- Don't kid yourself into thinking shopkeeping is easy. You'll need to juggle graphic design, web design, marketing, copywriting, CafePress product designer and a lot more. Shopkeeping requires a lot of skill, determination, patience, stubbornness, creativity and again a lot more. For me it's the best job in the world, but easy it's not.
- Don't expect quick results. You might get some beginner's luck, but don't count on that. True success takes time and dedication. If you don't make sales in the first few month's, don't be disappointed. Give your shops at least six months to start generating profit.
- Don't get stuck with basic shops. You can make money with basics, but they are no match to premium shops. As soon as you are able to open a premium shop, do it.
- Don't overlook the forums and CP help pages. Everything you need to know about shopkeeping and more is written somewhere on the CP community pages. Read the forums especially the stickied posts, study chat transcripts, get familiar with the templates...
- Don't forget about tutorials and info provided by Diane at Diane is a super smart lady. She knows a great deal about shopkeeping. Pay close attention to what she has to say on her website and in the forums.
- Don't expect others to give you all the answers. Learn to help yourself. Shopkeepers are very friendly and helpful. If you get stuck, post in the forums and ask for help, but don't expect anyone to hold your hand.
- Don't be a copycat. It's wrong on so many levels, it doesn't even need explaining.
- Don't ignore copyrights and trademarks. Know them and respect them. It will save you from wasting time and energy, not to mention keep you from getting sued.
- Don't expect the CafePress system to run smoothly all the time. Glitches, bugs and all sorts of problems happen often. Nobody likes them, but if you are serious about shopkeeping learn to live with them. Whatever you do, don't panic. File a bug report. Visit the forums, see if others have experienced the same or if there is a solution offered. Be patient.
- Don't edit more than one shop at a time. It messes up the templates, descriptions and what not. Trust me on this one. One shop at a time.
- Don't underestimate and disrespect your customers. You need them. Fight for their attention and don't do anything to insult them or send them away.

Happy shopkeeping!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Dream

I had a funny dream last night. I was attending a top shopkeeper conference of some sort with lots and lots of shopkeepers around many long tables. The funny part? Instead of sitting on chairs we were all sitting in shopping carts.


Friday, November 30, 2007

This Holiday Season...

... I am making a lot more sales than I did this time last year.
... Sandy is still a pitiful copycat and plagiarizer without brains or talent to come up with her own designs.
... Life is good.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Parasite At Work

Yes, the parasite a.k.a. my stalker a.k.a. Sandy a.k.a. a woman with no talent from Westerville, Ohio keeps feeding herself with my ideas, but even more so with ideas of other shopkeepers.

She is so obvious it's pathetic. When she wants to add a new section to her shop, before she does anything she has to gather ideas, other people's ideas, of course. How does she do it? She goes to the marketplace, searches for the designs in the niche she plans to attack next and then steals, steals, steals everything she can find on top of the marketplace for that search.

Must be very pathetic to live a life as a parasite.


Thursday, July 26, 2007


Hey, Sandy,

I've seen your shop. Very nicely plagiarized designs and descriptions from my shop. Other than lack of respect for my work and all the help you got from me, you seem to suffer from a lack of shame, too. I won't even talk about the lack of intelligence to come up with your own ideas.

Ah, well, you know what they say "karma is a bitch" and I bet she'll give you a very nice ride once you face it.

Everyone else, here's a couple of tips from me,

Keep your shops secret from other shopkeepers. It won't stop copycats like Sandy from stealing your ideas, but it will at least make it harder for them to find you.

Be careful of who you help. There are a lot of bad people out there. I made a mistake by helping Sandy and she back stabbed me. Don't make the same mistake. Help only the people who deserve it.

That's all.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not Returning

For a while I thought I'd return to this blog. However, the final decision is not to do so. I am not closing the blog completely, but almost. I weeded out the posts and only left a few with general help texts. Everything else is deleted forever.

There were some very nice people reading. I am sorry that this is the final goodbye, but I know you will understand. I am also sorry that I never got to talk to the reader from Korea who was one of the first people here and kept reading till this day. I'd love to hear from you, so if you wish drop me a private message via the CP forum (username BZ). If not, never mind, I wish you all the best :)

Good luck with your shops, everyone. I hope you make millions :)


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Few Things I Heard In the Executive Chat

  • Calendars will change to 2008 in August
  • Value tees will be removed from the marketplace late in July
  • There will be gift certificates in time for the holiday season.
  • In the next few months they will start charging extra for printing on both sides of apparel. Printing on both sides of tote bags will not change result in extra charge.
  • They are looking into direct deposit, but IF it happens it won't happen this year.
  • Tile box will be upgraded.
  • There will be new clocks in the future (not sure if they'll just upgrade the existing ones or release different models).
  • They are working on tote bags and want to get back to printing on in the center, not on the top.
  • Jr Jersey ex Jr Baby Doll will get a new thumbnail image sometime in August.
  • The very useful numbers that showed how many times a tag was search in the marketplace that are now stuck at zero all the time will be fixed, but as far as I understood - not any time soon. I think I hard end of the year mentioned. I guess they think it's not important... I wouldn't agree.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Let Me Tell You About My Stalker

There is a person reading this blog several times a day each day. I am quite sure I know who this person is, but lets pretend that I don't know and keep it at that. I don't check the stats for the blog often, but whenever I do, that person is near the top of the page with more visits and page views than anyone else. That is actually nice, someone is interested in what I write, I appreciate it.

Ohhh, but that person is not just interested in this blog. Nope, that person spends hours and hours and hours visiting my premium shops. That's fine, too, because I chose to share those shops with everyone.

You'd think the person would stop there, but no. The person is a regular visitor at my 4thClick shops, too. Both of them. There, the person, found a new game to play - put stuff into the shopping cart. So, "the person" is going around both 4thClick shops putting stuff into the cart, coming back the next day and viewing the cart and than repeats. Was it because I mentioned a few times that I get frustrated when people put things into the cart and don't buy or for some other strange reason? I don't know and don't really care.

I could have lived with all of the above and never would have said one single thing about it here, but the next thing that happened spilled the glass for me. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I made some new political designs. Surprise, surprise the person shows up in my political shop via marketplace after the search for "newly arrived" political designs. How many hours did it take to go through all the newly arrived designs and shops and try to figure out which one could be mine? Why this obsession? Is it really a copycat or someone with too much free time and no respect for me at all?

Last night shortly after I wrote about my efforts to get visitors to see the design I wanted them to see and buy, there's the person. Spent 2 hours 40 minutes in my shop. First came from a bookmark or a cashed page, than in the middle of the visit left and came back from the marketplace after searching for the design that this person suspected I was talking about in my latest blog entry. (Note: the blog entry in question was later deleted from this blog.)

How does that sound to you? It doesn't sound good to me at all. If I wanted people to snoop around my political shop I would have put a link to it in the sidebar, so everyone could do it. Isn't it enough that I keep three of my premium shops public and both my 4thClick shops, too, so that anyone could see what they are about, check out prices, see the shop organization and use them as learning material if they need to? (Note: my shops are now edited out of the blog.)

I am really upset over this. I feel like someone is constantly breathing down my neck. I didn't mention anything giving the person a benefit of a doubt and hoping that the person would find something better to do than chase around CafePress trying to discover my shops or play with my shopping carts. Well, now it has gone too far, I can't not talk about it.

So, I am talking directly to you, now. Bravo, you succeeded in a few things. You made me regret that I ever started this blog. You made me not talk about certain things that would be helpful to the rest of the readers, because I knew you'd abuse them. I used to really love keeping this blog and put my heart into recording my experience as a shopkeeper and found joy in helping others make it on Cafepress. Not any more. You took the fun and joy out of it for me.

I have too many other things to worry about to have the energy to keep writing this blog as I did up until now and have to measure every single word, so I wouldn't mention anything that could be abused by "the person".

After explaining everything, I am sure that everyone will understand why this has to be the end of this blog as we know it. I might return once in a while to write a thing or two, but from now on, don't expect me to write every day or even every month.

I will still be present in the community and if you want to talk to me (everyone except "the person", I don't want to talk to you) you can drop me a private message via the forums (username is BZ).


Monday, July 02, 2007

Basic Shop Potential

Elise asks:

"I was wondering, do you think if I market my basic shops really well... Would they potentially earn as much as a premium shop? Why or why not?"

Here is what I think. It would be possible, but extremely tough. The only way of succeeding at it I can think of is having an external website that would bind all the basics together in one place. In that case, you'd need a web domain, web hosting, CPShop and a lot of time and effort invested into marketing to pull it off.

In theory, it could work. In real life... I doubt it.

Why not? Here is a list:
  • No matter what your premium shop looks like, it will look better than a basic shop. All basic shops look the same. Premium shops look more professional and can be personalized to make a better impression on shoppers.
  • The SEO for basic shops is extremely limited. Premium shops have just a few limitations in that respect. In a premium shop more can be done for SEO than any of us will ever have time to do.
  • Variety. A basic shop can only offer one product type at a time, the choice is very limited. In a premium you have many different designs in one place. I have people staying half an hour or longer in my premium shops, looking around and ending up buying multiple items. On numerous occasions, people come searching for one thing and end up buying something different after looking around. You don't get that with basic shops.
  • Efficiency. In a premium shop you can have a hidden section with all available products in it, with the prices set, designs well adjusted on the products and the products arranged as you please in whichever order you want to put them. When you create a new design you can just import that hidden section into a new section, do a bulk change of the image, do a bulk description and a bulk title change, delete products that are not needed and you are done. That saves loads of time. You can have a design up in a section and looking great in less than 10 minutes or less if you have a good hidden template section. Premium shop saves time all around and leaves you more time to do other stuff.
  • Limitations. In a premium shop you can create a section with many items of a single product. There are even whole shops with just one products as SagArt's clock shop, for example. Can't do that with a basic shop. You can make as many sections and add as many designs to a premium shop. No limitations at all. That gives you a lot of freedom that you don't get with basic shops.
  • Easy price setting. You can do bulk price changes. It gives you the freedom to experiment, offer short time sales of certain products, etc. without having to spend hours changing the prices.
  • Marketing. It's much easier
I could go on and on. The truth is, whatever you can do with basic shops, you can do it many times better with a premium. You can make money with basic shops, I have. You can make a lot more money with premium shops. Even my smallest, very much neglected premium shop, with hardly any designs in it makes more money than my 70+ basic shops together. Sixty bucks a year is a small price to pay for what you get with a premium shop.

It's only my opinion, but if one is serious about CafePress, wants to earn money and is ready to invest time and effort into it, a premium shop is a must.

Hope I answered your question, Elise.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 29, 2007

Shop Review

David asked if I could give him my opinion about his Shiny Black Sheep shop. No problem, David, I'd love to. I like to analyze stuff.

First impression - beautiful, very modern web design. Second impression - great, actually fantastic designs - very original, very artistic, very attractive and very well thought of. As for the designs and the artistic value I have the best impressions and words of praise.

The prices are quite low and affordable, so they are fine. I would have them higher, though. The site is so well designed, it looks upscale, so I'd expect higher prices. Still, that's a personal choice.

Unfortunately, it's not enough to have beautiful designs to sell stuff and that is especially true for online selling. Here are the problems I can see with this shop.
  • The "above the fold" area is not used well.
The above the fold area is everything you can see on a web page without having to scroll. The fold is the line dividing the immediately visible area from the area that can be viewed only after scrolling down. Internet visitors are not very patient and a bit lazy, so as much of important data as possible should be placed in the above the fold area.

The top banner, although pretty, takes way too much space and it's not very informative. Actually, it takes quite a bit of scrolling down to reach the area where the actual products are displayed. That's a good way to lose visitors.

Speaking of losing visitors... the sidebar links to the blog, MySpace, eBay and the other links are taking away the visitors, as well. The goal is to get shoppers into the shop and keep them in for as long as possible. While they are there, they should be paying attention to products and not get sidetracked by shiny banners.
  • Bad SEO!
David says that the shop gets visitors. That's nice, but who are those visitors? Are they looking to buy t-shirts, mugs, pillows, buttons? Are they looking to buy anything? Judging by the SEO, I'd be surprised if many shoppers visited the site.

Lets go from the top. The title bar of the browser says: Shiny Black Sheep : Not good. The search engines give a lot of weight to the text in the title bar, so it's very important for the SEO. Is "Shiny Black Sheep" an established brand that people are searching for? I don't think so, so putting that into title bar does nothing for SEO. Words like t-shirt, shirt, clothing, gift should be put into that title bar, so that the website would be associated with those products. Those words alone are too general, so just putting them into the title is not good either. The shopkeeper, David in this case, has to decide what type of stuff he sells and how he wants to market it. I am not going to go deep into that, so I'll pick one possible option and that's retro (this could be a wrong pick, remember that I am just giving an example). Now, off to Keyword Selector Tool and search for retro. First good choice "retro clothing", next "retro t-shirt". Ok, I thought of another one parody. Back to the keyword selector tool and I get "parody t-shirt". So there... those are the keywords that should be put into the Title bar, something like Retro Clothing, Parody T-shirt and Gift Collection.

In the same way, the section titles should be chosen. Remember, they end up in the title bar, too.

These should be changed from time to time, especially when there is something seasonal to add to them... ie. "Christmas Gift".

The title bar text of the front page is the text entered in the Title line that can be changed in the Adjust Shop Information area of the shop. The title bar of a section is the title of the section.

All the descriptions should be written in a similar way. For example:

"Welcome to Shiny Black Sheep (A.k.A. S.B.S.), You have found a great selection of t shirts & accesories, get ready for the Black Sheep, dare to stand out!"

This text is taken from the shop as it is made now. It's not only short, it is not very informative for the search engines, either. Just "t shirts & accessories" is too general and says nothing about the shop. What kind of t-shirts, what type of accessories? What else? The text is the food for search engines so you've got to give them lots of it and incorporate as many descriptions of what you offer. Bold text - great idea - but from the SEO stand wrong text is bold. Search engines give importance to the bold text. Is anyone searching for "dare to stand out", if they are, are they looking to buy shirts and accessories? The keywords should be printed in bold.

When writing any text think of the visitors that are not yet on your page - those that are searching the web. What would they enter into the search box? The texts on your page should match those search terms. The text is your link with them. That's all you have. They can't see pictures to understand what your site offers. Those that are already in the shop will look at the pictures and the text is not all that important for them.
  • No titles or descriptions.
This has everything to do with the previous topic. No titles, no descriptions - no feed for the search engines - the site is not communicating with the search engines.

Even where there is a title it's not SEO friendly. Will anyone search for "iTelephone t-shirt"? Will anyone search for "iCasette Mug" or anything iTelephone or iCasette? It's clear what the designs are about once you see the design, but the those searching the net don't have the luxury of seeing the images and they don't know that the cool products are hidden behind those names that are witty, but not what people would search for.

SEO in this shop needs most improvement. Either you work on SEO and attract search engine crowd or you open the wallet and pay for some heavy marketing. Either way, the theme and target audience of this shop should be determined, so that the right crowd is brought in.

This is a new shop, so I can't really say that it's fault is a lack of designs. However, for most shopkeepers it's true that a lot of designs are needed to make regular sales (I am talking hundreds and thousands here).

My final tips:
  • Keep adding new designs.
  • Improve SEO. No need to do it all at once. A bit of this and that each day will do it in a long run. This includes adding titles and descriptions to ALL sections and products.
  • Fix the web design so that more important info can be found above the fold and bring the actual products higher on the pages, so there wouldn't be so much scrolling before the products appear.
  • Spell check.
  • Put to a minimum, or if possible eliminate the outgoing links (eBay, blog... etc.)
  • Have patience. The designs are good. They will sell eventually, until that day keep working regardless of sales and learn not to take it personal when nothing sells.
This is, of course, just an opinion. The final decisions are always the shopkeeper's responsibility.

OK, David, I hope this was useful. Everyone else, I hope there was something interesting in it for you, too.

Labels: ,