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snapcasa.com vs thumbshots.org
Sep 28th, 2009 by estreet

Snapcasa.com and Thumbshots.org are free services that take snapshots of websites and host the images for your use. You can see snapshots in action on the bing.com search engine.

I love website previews because it saves me time. I don’t have to click on links that take me to deadends. The preview shows you exactly where you will end up.

Unfortunately Snapcasa has some serious delays in their website snapshot capture and image hosting. Maybe I just caught them at a bad time. The site is completely unresponsive now.

Thumbshots.org is much faster but the thumbnails are smaller. You have to credit Thumbshots in order to use their free service. The paid service removes the attribution requirement.

Snapcasa thumbnails:

——————

thumbshots.org

I will use these thumbnails on Watched Item – most watched eBay items and Smiling Shopper – discount gift cards.

Here’s another service called Shrinktheweb.com. The resolution on the 120 px by 90 px thumbnail is better than thumbshots’ but the tradeoff is file size. Thumbshots’ images are around 4KB but shrinktheweb’s files are ~14KB. Shrinktheweb’s images are a few weeks old. I requested an image refresh.

Thumbnails powered by Thumbshots

Website Thumbnail Provider

PlasticJungle Twitter Contest – I Want to be a Weiner
Aug 1st, 2009 by estreet

PlasticJungle runs a safer marketplace for giftcards than eBay. I had a great experience with PlasticJungle last month. My $35 check arrived promptly. Check out the eBay widget below to compare giftcards on eBay vs. Plastic Jungle.

Well, now they are running a Twitter contest starting Aug. 3. View the details on PlasticJungle.com.

plasticjungleTwittercontest


Save up to 40% at your favorite stores!

The Etsy API and CraftCult App are Sweet!
Aug 1st, 2009 by estreet

I just used the Etsy API to run some product searches. It was very, very easy.

The Etsy Developers need to add a few more sort parameters to the keyword and tag search, like number bought and number of favorers (yes, that’s a word). But I like it. I really like it!

Here’s a nice looking Etsy application called Craft Cult.

Heart-o-matic

Etsy offers a nice community feature that is missing on eBay. Etsy shows sellers who is has marked their shop as a favorite. CraftCult.com runs a cron to show the history of new favorers. Cool!

whosfavsshop

Etsy also shows the Etsy user names who “heart” an item for sale. Love it! I don’t know why eBay doesn’t utilize their watch list to build their community like Etsy.

itemheart

My eBay app, WatchedItem, shows the number of watchers of an eBay item. Watchers are anonymous on eBay.

screenshotsearch

Watched Item shows the top 500 most popular items on eBay. It’s a good way to find the most attention grabbing items on eBay.

WIhalloffame

Amazon acquires Zappos
Jul 22nd, 2009 by estreet


Lunch with Zappos executives
Originally uploaded by Robert Scoble
Here Rackspace executives and employees meet with Zappos
executives. They don’t like being called executives, by the way.
They call themselves monkeys.

Amazon buys Zappos for 10M in Amazon stock. Does Zappos + Bezos = Bappos or Zezos?

Last month, there was a report that eBay Senior Vice President Stephanie Tilenius said that Zappos would be selling some items on eBay. That project was promptly squashed. Now I know why.

By the way, 10M in Amazon stock is worth $890M!


WatchedItem.com blog is live!
Jul 10th, 2009 by estreet

My Watched Item blog is now live!

I did tons of customization on the theme, then I noticed that it looks bad in Internet Explorer. The round corners are square in IE. I almost always use FireFox.

But I’m satisfied that it matches the main site and he first couple of posts look pretty good. I just need to automate the link generation a bit. I’m doing too much by hand.

BTW – It’s blueberry season here in Illinois. We got 12 pounds of big ones. My belly is full.

Blueberries

PlasticJungle.com Gives You Cash Back for Unwanted Gift Cards
Jul 7th, 2009 by estreet

I found an old $50 Banana Republic gift card in my box of wrapping paper. Hmmm… there is nothing at Banana Republic for under $50 so I might as well sell it.

Sell it on eBay? Naw, the gift card market is too weird for me. PlasticJungle.com? Yes!

I will get $35 by check for my $50 card. That’s close enough to the right price and there is no hassle.

Here’s the fastest way to get cash for an unwanted gift card on PlasticJungle.com.

PlasticJungle

I would add step 0: Register on the site.

Selling your gift card is easy

  1. Step 1Find out what it’s worth
  2. Step 2Select your offer
  3. Step 3Enter your card information
  4. Step 4Print two copies of your receipt
  5. Step 5Send your card with the label provided

As soon as we receive the card,

  • …get your cash by check OR
  • …get your Amazon.com® Gift Card* by email OR
  • …get your DonorsChoose.org Charity Gift Card
    by email

The best thing is that Plastic Jungle even provides the $.61 postage for mailing your card to them.

Yep, Plastic Jungle was a lot easier than eBay. I will check them out the next time I want to purchase a card.

—————————————-
Update: July 13

I like Plastic Jungle’s communication:

Dear Michelle Waldorf,

Thank you for your recent transaction on our site to sell your Banana Republic card valued at $50.00. In order for us to complete this transaction you will need to print the free shipping label provided. Place the label on an envelope, enclose your gift card and send it to us. Once we receive your card, we will verify the card value and send payment to you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can be reached by email (customerservice@plasticjungle.com) and/or telephone (877-MYJUNGLE).
Thank you,

The Customer Service Team
Plastic Jungle
877 MY JUNGLE
customerservice@plasticjungle.com

Congratulations on the sale of your gift card. We have issued your check in the amount of $35.00 and you should be receiving it in the mail within the next 5-7 business days.
We are constantly striving to provide our customers with the best possible service. We hope that your selling experience has been an enjoyable one!

If there is anything we can do to improve your experience please let us know. We can be reached by email or by phone: customerservice@plasticjungle.com 877-MY JUNGLE.

Credit in SmartMoney.com article
Jun 27th, 2009 by estreet

I got a credited as a source on SmartMoney.com yesterday! Article

It’s an article about the surge in Michael Jackson memorabilia sales after his announced death. My part was on the pre-death sales of MJ items on eBay.

Still, during Jackson’s life, some recent signs suggested relatively little interest from the broader consumer market in his memorabilia. Before Jackson’s death, sellers listed an average 200 to 400 memorabilia items daily on eBay (EBAY: 17.35, +0.21, +1.22%), only 50 to 100 of which sold, according to market researcher eSeller Street. Of course, some items offered on eBay may not have been of sufficient quality to attract buyers.

I hope I get a link next time.

Mei Ling’s BA in Affiliate Marketing – Part 2 – What is Affiliate Marketing?
May 18th, 2009 by estreet

Will Martin-Gill of the eBay Partner Network writes:

affiliate marketing — or paying online publishers to drive quality traffic to a company’s Web site based on the purchases and revenue they help generate — has quietly grown into a $6 billion+ industry. Jupiter Research expects affiliate marketing to grow another 13% year-over-year through 2012.

There is an overwhelming amount of niche markets and techniques used by Affiliate Marketers (AM). I’ve given myself a week (or two) to make sense of the mass of loudly broadcast information on AM. There are credible sources who provide AF information and tools, but it takes time to read through, process and filter out the deceptive claims of “make easy money in minutes”.

The “affiliate” part is simple: earn a commission for sending a buying customer to a destination site. Affiliates want to increase their earnings by increasing traffic to their own site and pre-selling products before sending users to the destination affiliate site. For example, posting a product review will get targeted traffic to your website and make people want to buy the product.

“Marketing” is where AM gets complicated. John Reese simply says that your assets are an email/member list and content. Marketing is the methods you choose to promote your content to your user list.

Here’s a simple checklist to understand any AF’s business model:

Retailmenot.com

  1. Target audience: shoppers ready to checkout
  2. Website Content: People powered coupon codes, revenue share when people post on the site
  3. Source of traffic: Natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO), pay people to post on blogs
  4. Monetization source: retailers, Google Ads

CNET reviews:

  1. Target audience: Tech shoppers
  2. Website Content: reviews of tech products
  3. Source of traffic: Natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO), inbound links
  4. Monetization source: retailers, Ads

popsugar.com

  1. Target audience: Star watchers
  2. Website content: dishing on the stars
  3. Source of traffic: Natural SEO, inbound links
  4. Monetization: retailers, ads

As you can see, there are many practices, techniques and strategies. The simplest strategy is to promote eBay or Amazon items on a blog. The most attention grabbing AFs use hype and popularity to draw large numbers of followers who they then monetize. Then there are the quiet AFs like Kaboodle.com and MSN.com.

Now to review the Affiliate Marketing tools that I reluctantly decided to sign up for, but pledge to use without resistance. There is too much information for 1 or 2 posts, so here’s an overview.

Overview:

  1. Opportunity.com ($40 per month):
    John Reese’s new site has a series of instructional videos that start at the beginner level. As I mentioned before, he starts with the most important assets for an affiliate marketer: 1. an email/member list and 2. content.

    This site is oriented to the non-technical, so it would be a good fit for eBay sellers. In fact, John says technical work takes time away from money making activities. Hmm…there is truth to that. I’m guilty of spending too much time creating features and not enough energy on marketing. But I think you need a technical solution and technical capability in order to scale your results.

    Impression: Good introduction. $40 a month is too much. But then I paid $75K for my MBA from Northwestern University. { Shrug }

  2. Shoemoney tools ($9.95 1st month, $100 per month after 1st month):
    Shoemoney provides tools for an active Affiliate Marketer to use. It’s more advanced than Opportunity.com.

    The first thing I saw under the SEO tools tab is the domain marketplace. It shows a list of unregistered domains for sale, the number of inbound links, and where the links come from (.gov, .mil, .edu). The prices are around $10-30 each but you can’t see the entire domain that you are purchasing. They show hidden domains like this: xxxshop-xxx.net. There’s no guarantee that the links actually drive traffic to the URLs for sale.

    My impression: I’m not sure if the tools are more useful than free tools yet. I have to dive in further. It would be better if they added written help text in addition to the video tutorials, but they have good support personnel.

  3. Tim Buchalka (FREE so far)
    Tim promotes his videos and tools on Twitter. The thing I like about Tim is that he doesn’t use a lot of hard-sell hype. He is simply persistent and uses positive language.
  4. SEObook.com
    This is the most cerebral of the bunch. They mostly focus on techniques to drive traffic to your site using natural search engine optimization (SEO). I follow all of their SEO advice on my site.

Next post: Domain strategies.

Mei Ling’s Big Adventure into Affiliate Marketing – Part 1
May 9th, 2009 by estreet

Now that I released the MOST AWESOME eBay search tool and promo banner maker for eBay sellers, WatchedItem.com, I’m finally to the point that I need to get serious about marketing.

1. My first step to getting visible was to use my name, Mei Ling. Pronounced it sounds like “May Ling”. It’s my middle name which is Chinese for Beautiful Princess Warrior (well, more like pretty and petite). I used Mei Ling for my entire life until I started my own business and went by my first name, Michelle. Why? I guess I wanted to be stay anonymous. But I’m a Mei Ling at heart.

2. Second, I contacted ShoeMoney to see if he wanted to work with me and Vitalii on a new project. Jeremy Schoemaker had posted he was looking at opportunities to invest in or projects to collaborate on. My expertise is in specifying features and getting development done whether doing it myself or working with developers. That’s my sweet spot, but I need the Marketing piece. Partnering with a superstar would be awesome. We’re totally ready to build a larger scale service. No reply yet.

3. Third, I signed up for ShoeMoney tools, John Reese’s Opportunity.com, Tim Buchalka and entered The $10,000 Business Boost. One of the prizes for the $10,000 Business Boost is Aaron Wall’s SEOBook SEO Training. I already follow every single piece of SEO advice from SEOBook, but I haven’t signed up for the service.

Next post… What I learned so far.

Mei Ling :-)

What’s new on WatchedItem.com
Apr 28th, 2009 by estreet

We’ve settled into a 2 week release schedule for WatchedItem.com. That’s a good because I tend to stuff more and more features in until the release gets too big.

This is what’s getting released this month:
1. Hover images on the search page. Can you believe eBay charges sellers for enlarged pictures?
2. Sort a seller’s items by watchers on the search page.
3. Product Gallery Banner shows items sorted by watchers.
4. Better logs and an alert system to tell me if something is wrong with the banners.
5. A FAQ page.
6. Better landing page from the watcher counter.
7. Better landing page for search engine traffic.

…and a ton of other little things.
——————–

Oh, yeah, I added a cool “tweet this” button because I’m a Twitterhead now. twitter.com/eBayWatchedItem

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