EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 180 - December 03, 2006 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

AuctionBytes 'Critique My Site' Feature:

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In September, we put out a call to readers to submit their ecommerce sites for critique by readers, who will offer their suggestions for site design and for enhancing search engine placement. We have our first "victim," Juli Bednarzyk of, who has bravely volunteered her site as the first case study.

Juli's main site is, but she has put most of her eBay items in a store category that can be accessed through

Juli had a website first, but it was selling only customizable items. When she started selling on eBay, she sold only plastic license plate frames. As time passed, the sales for those started to grow, and she developed other items to sell on eBay. Sales were great for some time, but then when the fees started to climb, she realized that putting all of her eggs in one basket was a bad idea. (Her fees were averaging over $1400 a month.)

Here's some additional information in Juli's words:

"Nearly all of the items we sell are made to order, and we have started with a focus on dogs. So, for each dog breed, we need to have an item and picture. But, we have hundreds of breeds and multiple item and item variations. Our current web designer was able to set up a design that would allow people to access the different breeds easily and that would allow us to add more breeds (rare, UKC, and designer breeds) as we developed items for them.

Our next challenge is to incorporate all of the different design ideas into one comprehensive site. Conceptually, we're there, but getting it all set up takes time. We use the Miva 4 shopping cart, and our web design company specializes in it. So, each store category will have a different look and feel, and a different redirect URL.

Ignoring all of the poor designs early on, it was much less expensive than I thought it would be. We saved money by switching hosting companies. The first company was a big name, but offered a robust package for the price. We thought we'd get great service. But once we started looking into response times in terms of performance, we were surprised to find that there were hosting companies that specialized in the Miva cart.

We went with, which gives shockingly good service both in terms of service and response times. Our store just flies! No more counting when you click on a link. They also respond to help tickets in a matter of hours.

The web designer we retain enables us to get a slight discount because we go to him with any problems first. Luckily, we've had very few issues.

Our web designer is We pre-pay for time, and use the hours on an as-needed basis. I can't say enough good things about these two companies."

Juli plans to continue listing on eBay, but does not want to rely on eBay alone. She also plans to focus on Google AdWords and other search engines. "We're also looking ahead to affiliate marketing with like-minded business, purchasing advertising and sponsorships on related websites, and even off-line advertising. Some of the plans will be expensive, and we'll have to cut eBay listings during those months. Since we've been with eBay for so many years, it's hard to change our listing habits."

Juli also has a newsletter set up through She plans to add more to her product lines, in both depth and width. "We will be adding cat, bird and horse designs, as well as venturing into several different categories. The first project will be integrating the main site ( ) with the category approach of so that we can add and so forth seamlessly."

So now, readers, it's your turn. Please visit Juli's site at and have a look. To get you started, Juli has two specific questions:

  1. On the website, just above the letters of the alphabet: if you "Click here for all Dog Stuff," you come to a generic dog page, which has everything from got dog shirts to pawprint gift bags to trailer hitch covers. How do we to entice people to click there, or make it more appealing? We've really run out of room on the header/menu area.
  2. Would you be likely to click on items without prices? Right now, a style has different items for all of the different shirt types we offer. This is ok for one style, but as we add styles per breed, it will be unmanageable. If we list an item, for example, "I love my rottweiler" apparel without price listed, but with pricing as a first choice based on style, would you be less likely to click on it or no difference?

If you have suggestions for Juli on site design, layout, search and navigation, marketing or search-engine optimization, please post a comment here:

Of course, keep the feedback constructive, and also let us know what Juli is doing right. We'll check back with Juli in the future to see what types of changes she implemented.

If you would like to be considered for an AuctionBytes "Critique My Site" feature, let me know by emailing me at

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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