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Shopping Cart Report an eBook Review

The Shopping Cart Report an eBook Review

eBook Review
The Shopping Cart Report
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
213 pages (PDF file 1537k)

eShopping Carts: Comparing Apples, Oranges and Tuna Fish!
or Make a Grocery List Cause You're Gonna Need One!
or All That Food and I'm Still Not Satisfied!

by Mike Banks Valentine

Have you ever bought a book, then plopped down on a pillow on the couch with a cup of coffee and some snacks ready to devour that books' contents, sip some French Roast and munch biscotti? Maybe it's Folgers and Doritos at the computer screen in this case as you open up Adobe Acrobat reader and Dr. Ralph Wilson's ebook "The Shopping Cart Report".

Either way you've gone shopping and when you put that bag of rich, fresh and aromatic French Roast whole-bean coffee in your empty shopping cart, you've put a physical object into another before moving down the bakery isle to the fresh dark-chocolate coated Biscotti and put another physical object into a cart.

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Online, both of your products are simply bits and bytes and the shopping cart is complex software hosted on a remote web server somewhere off in cyberspace. So whether you'll be buying that shopping cart software and having it installed on your own web server or simply using an existing cart hosted on some other secure server, you will be using shopping cart software to sell your products or services online.

Hence, the need for small business owners everywhere to know about shopping cart software and the reason Dr. Wilson wrote the ebook. I was excited to read the definitive work, just released by Wilson this year as I was about to recommend the purchase of shopping cart software to a client, then install it for him. I had my opinions of what was available and was prepared to make some recommendations based on past experience.

Then I saw "The Shopping Cart Report" and, knowing that things change at-internet-speed online, I thought I'd review the NEW recommendations of others before committing my client to any one software or hosted service. Both my client and I are very glad that I made that choice!

It's certainly not scintillating reading, in fact, far from that, as you trudge through reviews of software entirely inappropriate to your needs, services unlikely to make sense to non-geeks and interviews with a shopping cart software company president that will leave you wondering why it helps you to hear from her. All of it leaves you kind of lost and bewildered, especially if you know little of CGI scripts and secure server certificates.

So why read the ebook? Because if you DO know the basics of shopping cart software, paymemt gateways and online merchant accounts, the ebook is a revelation! That revelation for me came while I sat scowling and scratching my forhead in confusion wondering, "When ya gonna get to the one that's right for my client?" I was reading about Miva Merchant, a well respected software based on a database language that comes with open- source code, allowing customization and tweaking to your needs.

That revelation was simply this: No single shopping cart soft- ware is a one-size-fits-all solution. There are carts ranging from FREE to hundreds of thousands of dollars and they are all designed for very specific purposes, none of those purposes are likely to fit your needs precisely and none of them could or ever will. Shopping for a shopping cart is going to take you time, research, patience, more research and more time. Give in to that unhappy requirement and put in the time and energy.

Or explain your needs to your developer and trust them to solve them effectively for you. I don't recommend that unless you have money to burn -- unlikely for small business webmasters.

So get the ebook -- and don't expect it to answer your questions, solve your problem or provide an answer to your shopping cart questions. It won't do that, especially with the good Doctors' aged articles, one of them dated 1990! Yes I said 1990!

Dr. Ralph Wilson became an internet guru by being there before almost anyone else cared about the web, then tirelessly staying up-to-date and in-the-know since the beginning of internet time. He knows what he is talking about. He is also known as Dr. Ebiz and I say trust the good Doctor, he's a specialist and a well regarded master of web marketing.

But I must say that I have an awful time getting over the fact that nearly half the ebook is made up of his collected articles on (or even peripherally near) shopping cart software. The majority of those articles are more than a year old. The balance of the book is made up of one paragraph summaries with web links to articles online by others that are three and four years old and he acknowledges in his forward introduction that some of the links may not work . . . and that simply doesn't work for me.

Wilsons' articles are informative, if a bit scattered due to the fact that they weren't written specifically as a book, but as separate articles over time with no focus or theme other than the topic of shopping carts to tie them together. Not enough. Why would I recommend the book? Because after you read Wilsons' articles, you'll go to the list of article summaries with web links and you'll click through to those articles and read them.

By the time you've read all those articles, you'll understand the complexities involved in shopping cart software and you may get a few things about merchant accounts and secure servers and online payment gateways along the way. If not, you could always buy A Merchant's Guide to E-Commerce Payment Gateways by Dr. Ralph Wilson. http://www.wilsonweb.com/ebooks/gateway.htm

What it comes down to for this reporter is that you've got to do the research and you may as well start here. What I found out (to the delight of my own client) was that there is a hosted cart that cost just $6 monthly that will link up with the payment gateway and securely transmit necessary information to them and back with a cart that suits his needs, saves him hundreds of dollars in the process and makes me look great.

I found that resource somewhere in the list of article links provided by Wilson in the second half of the ebook. Essentially it came down to the clear fact that my client is currently able to securely sell products online with real-time approval of credit cards and move his business online for far less investment than would have been required with the recommendation I would have made before reading The Shopping Cart Report.

Now we can both sit back and enjoy our French Roast coffee and chocolate dipped biscotti. And he doesn't need to buy that really expensive shopping cart, just rent one very inexpensively until his business grows enough to justify buying that shiny new cart.

Wilson offers aged cheese and a fine aged wine but I was after French Roast and Biscotti. If you are seeking Folgers and Doritos you STILL have to go to the research store so read the ebook, put it in Wilsons' ecart and read The Shopping Cart Report.

While you're in the store you can compare Apples and Oranges.

Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small Business http://SEOptimism.com

WebSite101 "Reading List" Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet http://website101.com/arch/
Guest Article
"How Ya Doin'?"
A Traffic Analysis Primer
So, someone asks you, "How's the website doing?"

There's something very satisfying about being able to tell them EXACTLY how well the site is doing, and supply supporting statistics like:

- How many visitors you have each month
- How much each visitor costs
- How much each visitor is worth
- How successful your selling efforts are
- Where the visitors come from
- What the visitors do once they arrive

As impressed as people will be when you tell them this information, they will be doubly impressed when you are then able to compare these numbers to last month's numbers. Beyond the satisfaction of having these facts available lies the value of applying the information to the decision-making process for your site. Is your site's overall design effective? Is each page delivering optimum results? Are you making money or losing it -- and in either case, it's nice to know how much.

How Much Do You Really Need To Know?
How well you can answer these questions depends on the reporting you get from the folks who host your website. If your site is hosted at an Internet service provider (ISP), you should be able to get a basic monthly site performance report from them. A basic report will list how many hits, page views and visitors your site receives every month.

If your ISP doesn't provide you with a monthly site performance report, don't despair -- there are ways to outsource this capability. I'll tell you more about these at the end of this article. Although most basic reports don't contain enough information for detailed reporting and analysis, there are alternatives ranging from free to inexpensive to wildly expensive. As you might imagine, the more you spend, the more detail you get. The question becomes, "How much do you really need to know?"

A Meaningless Number
There was a time (1996, if you must know) when you could impress someone with how many hits your web site received in a given month. We now know that this is a meaningless number, since a hit only signifies when an individual file is requested from your web server.

A file can be anything -- an HTML file or a graphic image, for example -- and the average web page can be made up of many files. If a web page you are looking at contains four graphic images, the monthly hit counter will be increased by five hits (the HTML page plus the four graphic images), even though only one visitor views it.

To compound this meaningless number, consider that the average visitor will look at a number of pages at your site. For our example, let's assume they look at four pages before they exit your site. If each page contains an average of four graphic images, the average visitor will result in 20 hits.

To use hits as an indicator of your web site's success is misleading -- great, if you want to impress someone else, not so great if you're trying to make an informed decision on how to spend your advertising budget.

Another Meaningless Number
O.K., maybe not meaningless, but page views can be dangerously deceptive at the very least. In addition to hits (or files transferred), the standard ISP report will usually tell you how many page views your site has each month.

As we saw in the previous example, a single visitor can view many pages during the course of a single visit. If this visitor returns tomorrow and revisits the same pages, your Page View total is increased again. Now, obviously we all hope that our visitors will return often -- it increases the chances that they will become customers -- but as you can see, the number of pages viewed doesn't really tell you how popular or profitable your site is.

Popular Software Choices
As I promised at the start of this article, here is a list of vendors who provide reporting applications to help you track and analyze your web site's traffic.


If you look at the bottom of my web page, you'll see that I use this free service. To find out more, just click on the image at the bottom of the page at: http://www.WebMarketingUnlimited.com/


This is one of the oldest free traffic trackers on the Web. Their web site is worth visiting just for the marketing and development resources alone.

www.WebTrends.com Not free, but one of the dominant forces in the field. If you host your own web server, this is the way to go.

In the next installment of this series, I'll cover how to use your monthly traffic reports to optimize your advertising and marketing decisions.

Loren G. Tindall hosts Web Marketing Unlimited, "A Collection of Practical and Proven Resources for the Internet Marketing Community" ===============================================


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