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  1. How can I get my web site in the search engines?
  2. How can I gather web statistics invisibly for my site?
  3. How do I obtain a domain name?
  4. What are the pros and cons of merchant account credit card payment systems vs. third-party payment systems?
  5. How much would it cost for me to have my shopping cart updated?


1. How can I get my web site in the search engines?

There are submission services that can do this for you, placing your web site description and keywords in many of the major search engines for a fee. Most web hosts will offer a basic submission service for free that will place your site information in 6-10 search engines. You can submit your site description and keywords to each engine individually, too. It will take approximately 2 weeks to three months for the placement to show in the engines. Alternatively, or in addition to submission services, or submitting individually, you can create "meta tags" with your web editor, that will place a description of your site offerings, keywords and instructions for "bots" or "crawlers" to index your pages at the top of your home page in code, allowing the search engine "bots" to index your site for addition to their engines. Just waiting for the bots to come can bring good results, though it can take a day to a few months before the results are seen in the search engines.

Please visit Search Engine Watch to learn how what you absolutely must know about the major search engines. There are only a few that actually matter. Start by reading the list of major search engines and the percent of traffic they drive to sites. Then read about whether you should pay for inclusion ($50-$300), submit your site to the engines yourself, or submit through a submission service to multiple search engines at one time. Unless your site is database-driven (pages are not static, but delivered on-the-fly, so non-existant on the server), a mostly graphic site with little text, or you are in a big hurry to be included, it might make sense to just wait for the the major "bots" to spider your site.

2. How can I gather web statistics invisibly for my site?

There are many ways and many price ranges, but lowest price would be to use the free log analysis and statistics offered by your web host. These are usually quite extensive and requires nothing of you. All you need to do is log on to your web host's site with the passcode provided and view an amazing array of easy to read graphical information about your site's hits. There is a major drawback. You will get details for only the "top 30" visitors for the month, when you may want to know the details for every visitor. Theoretically, you can change the "top 30" to "top" whatever you want, but your web host won't do it for you, so you would need programming knowledge to modify the parameters, or need to pay a programmer.

Luckily, as an alternative, there are many low cost, online services that offer the same extensive log analysis and statistics, without limiting the results to the "top" anything. Some of the best are the lowest in price, too, which run most commonly from just under $2.00 - $20.00 per month and up. You will know the regions of the world your hits come from, repeat visitors, your most popular pages, referring search engines and sites and more. These statistics are an invaluable marketing tool and report card of how well your business is doing in various geographical locations.

3. How do I obtain a domain name?

It is easy to pay too much for a domain name. Registrars pay a wholesale rate of about $6.00. You can pay anywhere from $8.00 to $35.00 for the same name and the same service, depending on the registrar you choose. There are many excellent, large registration services charging the lowest rates, while offering many additional free or very low-cost services, such as domain parking/redirection, web hosting, POP3 email accounts, email forwarding, domain transfers and renewals, online ownership transfers, digital certificates and even merchant accounts. There is no benefit to paying the high rates, so why do it? See the Resources page for a listing of good domain sellers.

4. What are the pros and cons of merchant account credit card payment systems vs. third-party payment systems?

You will pay for two services -- the shopping cart system and the credit card processing service. The shopping cart system can be free-$20 per month. The payment processing service comes in the two varieties, a merchant account in your name, or a third party payment system, which will have a master merchant account that you are allowed to use for a small fee.

A merchant account in your name will start with a basic monthly $25.00 fee. Breaking this cost down, there is a monthly "statement fee" of $10.00 and a "gateway fee" of $15.00. Additionally, there is a "miniumum processing fee" of $25.00, if your volume of sales is under the $1,000. Then, there is the per sale fee of approximately 2.35% and a per transaction fee of approximately $.35 per transaction.

If you are using a third party payment system, then the costs would be $0.00-$20.00 per month, plus approximately 3.5%-15% per sale fee and $.35-$1 per transaction fee each (the $1 per transaction fee offers the lowest percentage0 for higher priced items). There is a $49 start up fee, usually. All the third party processors offer a free shopping cart, but charge a monthly fee for optional additional services. Aside from the $49 start up fee, there are no monthly fees. The best rate found at this time for third party processors was 5.5%, with a $.35 per transaction fee.

When you are just starting out in e-commerce, the conventional wisdom is to use a third-party payment system and avoid being stuck with the large fixed monthly costs of a merchant account, when early small monthly volumes may not justify the fixed costs of a merchant account. As your volume of sales goes up, at some point it will then be cheaper to have your own merchant account and pay the monthly costs, as the per sale and per transaction fees are smaller.

5. How much would it cost for me to have my shopping cart updated?

We did a recent informal survey of prices for shopping cart updates. The price range for adding new products to a database went from a low of $2 per item, to a high of $15 per item in a la carte mode. You can buy a plan that includes a certain amount of updates included a montly plan fee. These range from $30 to $100 per month.

IF YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS . . .
Please email any questions you have to info@theepitome.com.

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