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State of Mind: Looking Back to 2015

Ecommerce Income gives you practical tips and valuable tricks to get you on the road to online success. But what is the day-to-day practice like for an owner of an online store? The dialogues of “State of Mind” focus on what is on the mind of Kees and other ecommerce entrepreneurs – in short, it focuses on your burning questions! In the first “State of Mind” interview Kees tells us about his successes and failures of 2015.Kees van Dijk

Successes and missed chances in 2015

Kees, nice to do these interviews for Ecommerce Income! We have, of course, known each other already for quite a while, but there are certainly a number of themes I am interested in covering with you. To right away start off with the first question: could you tell me something about your biggest success of 2015?

I am also happy to start doing interviews for Ecommerce Income. I’d be happy to do this more often and then also answer questions from Ecommerce Income readers.

To answer you question: in 2015 the sales of hammocks abroad simply exploded. I can tell you with great satisfaction and pride that we now maintain top positions with the most relevant search terms for the sale of hammocks in Germany. Obviously we profit a lot from this fact at HangmatGigant.nl. December 2015 was the first month that we sold more hammocks in Germany than in the Netherlands.

Could you name a personal memorable failure of 2015? You can of course also name something you’d rather forget as soon as possible!

I am going to discuss something that hasn’t been so much of a failure. There is, luckily, nothing that went absolutely wrong in the past year. I did, however, miss a chance. If I could have given myself advice a year ago with the knowledge I now have, it would be this: invest more in SEO. I have been busy over the last few weeks with an extensive analysis of my costs and income, and came to the conclusion that 70% of the profit of HangmatGigant comes from sales generated by organic traffic. [organic traffic is unpaid traffic, an example of paid traffic is Google Adwords. If you are on top of the first page in Google, you will most probably need to pay less for Adwords because your quality score is then higher.]

Ok, that’s clear. That seems like a great learning moment for 2016! What are you going to do with it?

We are going to focus on SEO for 70% of the time. We can really benefit a lot more from that.

Could you name an example of how you would go about implementing this?

For the SEO it is important that the content is good. We can’t improve a lot in terms of content. This is the case for our Dutch online store and certainly now also for the German one . What we should do more is link building .

How do you do that, link building? You can’t just place links everywhere can you? All those website aren’t yours after all…

Of course you can’t do whatever you like with someone else’s website, but you can look for cooperation that is meaningful for both parties, with for example blogs. When bloggers write about your product that is not only nice advertisement on that blog, but also a higher ranking in Google! Part of the deal should be a link on that website to your online store.

You can for example organize with a blog to raffle a hammock for free, in exchange for the publicity and the link.

So now there is a weekly raffle on blogs?

No, not so often yet. So that’s something we want to work on, to more frequently get that publicity and those links.

Could you tell a bit more about your SEO approach?

We no longer subcontract SEO. We now do everything ourselves, because we do it better than the expensive agencies with whom I used to work. I have set up a good team – they all now the SEO game very well.

One tip for other ecommerce entrepreneurs: look where your competition has links. Make sure to get links there, too.

A recipe for success

Kees, when I talked to you in the Spring you told me: it starts to be too much like a daily grind. Everyday to the office, the days looked too much like one another. Now you look very energetic and motivated again. What happened?

I think I posed the wrong questions. I asked myself: is this everything? Is this all there is? During the past year I learned to look at my companies in another way. I posed the question:

Can I triple the profits? And I think, no I knowthat I can.

One of the things that stands out in the way you approach business is the “Hammock Philosophy”. Could you tell me more about it?

Tim Feriss, the author of the four-hour workweek is one of the inspirations. He showed me it is possible to work whenever and wherever you want. If I want to take a holiday for a week, or even a few weeks, my companies don’t suffer a bit. I can keep an eye on my online stores with my smartphone. But even that is not really necessary, because all employees know what they need to do. All processes have been standardized.

I myself don’t care much for the 4-hour workweek. Real entrepreneurs love working and you shouldn’t force them to work only 4 hours per week.

But, I do like it that I don’t have to be in the office at 9 am. I work whenever I want to – and sometimes that is more than 10 hours on a day, and sometimes I work less for a period of time.

Ok, so you can just be absent from work! What is your role within your company exactly?

I come up with new ideas and develop them. That’s what I am good at. Once it becomes a part of the day-to-day business processes I clearly describe it and it become a part of the Online Store Contract.

What kind of contracts are that?

In the Online Store Contracts, I describe what has to be done. This is a real contract that I conclude with my employees. Everything that has to happen more than once in my online store is described in it.

The writing of an Online Store Contract is also a great opportunity to have a good look at your business processes.

If you, for example, need a few pages to describe your returns policy, it is probably not logical and simple enough.

Brevity is often good. I recommend every online store owner to draw up such documents.

Another term I heard you use before is “Virtual Real Estate”. What do you mean by that?

Every investment you make should increase the value of your online store. I think it is good to look at the saleability of your online store. If all business processes are organized well, standardized and described in the Online Store Contracts, you can easily transfer your online store to a buyer.

If I’d sell my Hammock online stores next week, I don’t have to stay in the business for another half year to explain how the company works. Everything will keep on running because everyone knows what he or she has to do. You can earn a nice buck with your online store but you can hit the real jackpot by selling it!

The next “State of Mind” is about what trends and chances Kees think will dominate 2016. This will be published in about a week. We are planning to more often do interviews with Kees on Ecommerce Income and for the next interview I would be happy to pose readers’ questions directly to Kees! You can pose your questions by writing a reaction below this article.

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