As any e‑commerce analyst can testify, you can’t sit back and wait for the dollars to roll in just because you’ve built a website. That’s a lesson Jake Ball learnt after buying the domain name “ChildrensBookstore.com” back in 2005.
Ball admits that he thought he’d get rich after creating his online store; but for six years he sat around waiting for orders and only managed to attract a handful each day. Not exactly a recipe for giving up the day job and hiring a web content manager or e‑commerce manager.
Investing time and money
After a little deliberation, Ball decided to commit to the business and plow some capital into it. He approached web development firm Tribute Media in his Idaho hometown of Boise, who immediately set about making the site more professional and suggested that Ball attend the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago last year.
That proved to be the turning point he needed. He learned about that magical three-letter acronym, “SEO”, found some enticing new software for his site and began engaging customers and building his business upon his return.
His next step was to hire another Boise-based firm, Page One Power, to build custom links for ChildrensBooks.com from other sites (like parenting sites) which were relevant to his online store and its keywords. The results were impressive, driving more traffic to the retailer and appreciably elevating its search engine rankings.
Goodbye day job, hello e‑commerce
Ball now has 10–12 orders each day and is well on course to hit 70 a day by the close of the year. That translates into $1.5 million per year – a plenty good-enough basis to kiss goodbye to that day job after all.
Ball has been on a steep but profitable learning curve. He says: “You can’t just sell cheaper than others.” He’s put a lot of effort into making his online bookstore unique, personally writing book reviews and articles aimed at parents and teachers about literacy and encouraging children to read. There’s also a children’s author’s section featuring biographies, interviews and book lists.
“Your project is never done, you just get little milestones and have to move on to the next thing. The minute a site is ‘done,’ it starts stalling. If you don’t innovate, you’re toast.”