Mountain Commerce Creates Tax Rules Module

How many states does your business operate in? Do they offer tax holidays? What about tax laws based on specific product categories?

State sales and use tax laws are difficult to keep track of and collect correctly. Typically, an online merchant will need something known as “nexus.” This is a fancy way of saying they own and operate a physical store or business in a specific state. For example, if I own a retail shop in New York State and then I have “nexus” in New York, anything I sell online that ships to a customer living in New York should have sales tax collected.

This has been the standard Mountain Commerce way of allowing merchants to tax customers. Define the states you would like to tax, we look up the tax rate for the customers zip code and apply the appropriate tax.

As tax laws are being changed and tax holidays are becoming more prevalent, the time came to re-write how Mountain Commerce handles taxation. Hence, we have created the Tax Rules module. This is a new method of calculating taxes that allows for additional tax definitions using the purchase date, product price, destination state, and something we call tax categories.

For those merchants who are content with their current method of collecting taxes, fear not. The new Tax Rule module needs to be turned on by Mountain Media. Therefore, your current tax methods will remain in place and working, as you would expect, unless you tell us otherwise.

Should a merchant choose to turn on the module they will have the ability set up:

  • Tax holidays for specific states and date ranges
  • Different tax rates for different shipping destination states, either using our tax tables or entering a specific tax percent
  • Assign products to tax categories that allow you to use different tax rates per tax category
  • Only tax products that have a purchase price above a specific amount

Best of all, the tax rules aren’t permanent. Inevitably, tax laws will change and this will require a change in the process of collecting taxes. Most likely the merchant can handle any changes needed immediately. If you are having any trouble with your method of collecting taxes contact Mountain Media for support.

Happy selling, folks!

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Why Content is Still King For Ecommerce Sites

Here at Mountain Media, we often get asked the question: How can I make a website that people can enjoy and that ranks well in search engines? While the question is great, the answer is rather complicated.

As of late, Google has made changes to its algorithm to ensure quality websites outrank inferior websites. Through two Panda refreshers and one Penguin update, Google has made it easier to pinpoint and penalize those who create poor content by using keyword stuffing and unnatural language. At first, these updates left website owners at risk for big penalties including lowered rankings or being dropped altogether in Google’s search index. In turn, these websites risk a serious and costly drop in web traffic. For an ecommerce website, this can be extremely detrimental. These updates, as well as the inevitable future updates to search engine algorithms, are dramatically changing the role of SEO. While keywords are still important to a website, great content must be written for the benefit of the readers.

Now, back to the original question, the key to having a website that people can enjoy and that ranks well in search engines can be found in the Google guidelines. According to Google’s Webmaster guidelines, one should “create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.” A useful website provides value or somehow benefits its visitors. It also includes information that cannot be found elsewhere on the Internet. Following these guidelines will help Google to find, index and rank your website. The challenging part is developing useful and interesting content. Now why is content important again?

Content attracts visitors

Unique content is important because it attracts visitor attention and builds interest in your website. Research shows that people are more likely to purchase products from a website that produces custom content. Where can you get unique content? Ask your boss! Business owners have a wealth of information regarding their particular product, service or industry. Unfortunately, this information often stays in their heads. Instead, take that knowledge and turn it into valuable web content. Publishing this information makes it tangible and a great resource for customers. Now that you have provided unique content to get them there, the challenge becomes keeping visitors on your website. You can do this by including video, photos and witty content. If you can provide this to your visitors, they will be more likely to stick around [Read: 3 Places for Video Love on Your Website].

Search engines score content

Publishing new and relevant content on your website is a way to show search engine spiders that your website is not stagnate. For example, Google measures all of your documents for freshness, then scores each page according to the type of search query. Search engines like Google want to provide the best user experience possible. Therefore, the goal of any major search engine is to return the most relevant results to users. Take an honest look at your website and see what pages will benefit most from freshness. Then, be fresh, relevant and most importantly, be useful.

Powerful inbound links

If you can write something useful and portray yourself as a thought leader within your industry, you create the opportunity for people to start writing about you and even linking to your articles. Having links from other websites to yours is a crucial SEO tactic. First, search engine robots follow links between websites. Therefore, the more inbound links you have the more often robots will visit your site. Secondly, many search engines consider inbound links as “votes” for you. They assume that if a lot of websites are linking to you, your site must be of high quality. Also, inbound links can bring more traffic to your website, which means potential leads and conversions. Essentially, the better your content is the more powerful the inbound links will be.

Content is an investment

Keep in mind, content is an investment in your site. Unlike Internet advertising, content is an investment that keeps bringing new visitors year after year. And all good things require effort. Writing web content is a skill that takes both practice and patience. As I’ve mentioned above, content should be both useful and interesting. It should also be SEO-rich. A good rule of thumb when it comes to writing web content is to use a keyword density of 3-5 percent—just enough to attract some new attention without sounding too redundant and disengaging. If your skills are not up to par, you may want to consider hiring someone well trained in the art [Read: PR & SEO: A Match Made in Cyber Heaven].

As you can see, the Google updates were quite alarming to the SEO professional who has always used traditional SEO techniques, like keyword stuffing, to help clients move up in the rankings. While there is still a need for optimization, good content is very important. This may mean hiring copywriters or public relations professionals to develop content strategies that include useful article topics, interesting blog posts, and website pages that engage readers in the future!

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Using Video Content for SEO Benefit: 3 Ways to Make it Happen

HD Cinamatic Wedding Videographer Videography Video Production AustinNow that everyone knows just how huge it is to keep fresh, high-quality, interactive content on your website that’s frequently changed, updated, added to, etc., it’s now important to understand just how to make that content work to your SEO advantage. Since I’m a video nut, I totally swear by the power of video content and the huge benefits it can have for your website, your brand and your business, but not many SEO’s out there know exactly how and why to implement it correctly.

The truth is, video can be used for a number of different reasons, and all of them have differing benefits for your site. Knowing how and when to use the videos that you have can make or break the success of your content marketing strategy, so it’s definitely something you need to learn now.

Brand Awareness

Tons of companies are now jumping on the video train to create corporate commercials that give some insight into their businesses – but what do you do with those videos once they’re created? The answer involves more than just posting these videos on YouTube, although that is a good starting point for this type of content.

In order to increase your brand awareness, you want to send a message to as many people as you possibly can, and YouTube is a great way to accomplish just that. Being the second-largest search engine in the world, behind only its parent engine, Google, YouTube is a fantastic way to get your content seen, and the more people that see your video, the more aware they become of your brand.

It will take a little more work on your part, though, than simply posting to YouTube and letting Internet users do the rest of the work. Overly-commercial content on YouTube isn’t going to be successful – engaging content will. Take this Nike commercial, which was meant for web purposes based on its length (2:30 is far too long for a television ad, but online, people will spend the 2:30 to engage with content that’s entertaining like this) – 2.6 million views later, everyone knows about Nike Free sneakers and how they stand for true love (metaphorically speaking):

If you wish to create this kind of content, keep in mind that your audience is much broader than your typical target audience. Insert and reflect your brand wherever and however possible, but know that the content still needs to be share-worthy. Then, after your video is posted, do what you can to share it. You can post your content across your social media platforms, write guest blog posts with the content embedded in it and simply share with your company’s contact list.

Good quality content will handle the rest – once you’ve done your part to share it, others should pick up on it.

Building Links

Say you want to get hundreds or even thousands of high-quality backlinks to your site, which has become so much harder to do in the post-Panda realm that we SEO’s now live in. It’s easier said than done, but if you have the right kind of quality video content, at least you have a starting point.

If you’re looking to build links, viral video content will be your best friend. You’re looking for something that’s going to be entertaining enough to be shared, and hence lead to more links to your website. So make sure you have a funny corporate video like the Dollar Shave Club guys (see below – this is my favorite!), or some kind of video that’s going to attract attention and encourage people to like and share your content.

Now, to help in your link-building goal with your awesome video, there are a couple of things you’ll have to do after you’ve implemented it on your website using a third-party media server (we like Vimeo Pro). First, when you’re loading your video on to your third-party server, make sure you click the settings to allow your video to be embedded anywhere. Then, embed it onto your website using HTML5 or JavaScript – steer clear of using iFrames, as these are difficult for search engines to read.

You can create custom embed codes to share with others so that when your video gets shared, your website gets credit for the additional embed. Target the page with your video content using optimized anchor text and make sure you give users the option to share the video across the major social media platforms (typically Facebook, Twitter and Google+).

Then, share away! Use your custom HTML5 or JavaScript embed code to share to your business’ own social media profiles, and let the quality of your video content do the work from there. Voila – natural, quality backlinks to your site!

Increasing CTR/Conversions

Obviously, every website’s goal is to rank on the first page of search results, if not own the #1 position. We all know how difficult that can be, and there’s no real trick to make it happen quickly, although video content, when implemented correctly, can definitely help move your website up in the rankings and increase your click-through rate.

Search users are proven 80% more likely to click on a search result that features a rich snippet thumbnail of any sort, especially video. When more users click on your search result over others, despite its position in the SERPs, Google interprets that as your site being of high-quality that people regularly find valuable information on. Then, Google begins to trust your site more, and then begins to rank you higher in the SERPs. As you rise in the SERPs, your CTR could increase by as much as 60% because of your video snippet. It’s really a cyclical win-win for all involved.

As far as your conversions go, having a video on a product page of an ecommerce site can hugely increase the likelihood of a customer purchasing a product. It gives a customer a chance to really “see” the product in a way that they can’t through images and text alone.

So, to implement a video for these purposes, simply create a product video that doesn’t necessarily have to be all too engaging outside the context of your website, and upload it to a third-party media server. Select the settings that hide the video from the third-party server to ensure the video will appear on your website and your website alone (so Vimeo or Wistia or whichever service you’re using won’t rank for content that’s yours).

Then, place it on the desired page of your website using HTML5 coding (the “old embed code”) that’s readable by search engines. There are some ups and downs to this – HTML5 is not readable by mobile devices, only iFrames are, but iFrames aren’t read by search engines. So you either have to choose which is more important to you, or program in a way to serve up different versions of the video to different servers/bots based on their entry point (mobile vs. desktop).

Mark-up your video content using schema.org Video Object tags, and submit a video XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools (some third-party media servers, such as Wistia, create these sitemaps for you – others, you’ll have to work with your web provider to create and upload to your website). Wait a week or two, sometimes more depending on the overall power of your website, and you should begin to see your video snippets appearing in search results when you enter the query for which you optimized your video for when you marked it up.

Here’s an example of a video we recently implemented earlier in 2012 for a phrase that receives 3,600 monthly searches and is highly competitive. This website ranked at the 46th position in the SERPs prior to video implementation, and after the video was placed and indexed, the search phrase jumped to the number 2 spot:

Now, that page of the website is one of the top performing pages, and the conversion rate has increased on the page, as well. The video, while not otherwise too terribly engaging, is serving its purposes of producing the video rich snippet in search results to increase keyword rankings, CTR and conversions, just as intended.

If you’re considering adding video content to your website, just make sure you have a plan in place based on your goals for the content prior to creation and implementation. How you place the video can change its overall performance drastically, so make sure you and the marketing company that your business is working with understand the goals and know how to implement your content properly to achieve them.

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5 Reasons to Take a Vacation from Social Media

For anyone in their twenties, it’s almost comical to think back to what it was like growing up before social media existed. While the Internet was still on it’s way to taking over the world, our first virtual form of “instant” social communication was through AIM. As most of us have drank the koolaid and joined social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, we’ve grown accustom to instant gratification and knowing what’s happening with everyone and everywhere in the blink of an eye.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is without a doubt an incredible resource for us to learn about what’s happening in the world, but at the same time, it’s critical we take a break from it all every once in a while. Before you yell out a big “WHAAAAAT?!?”, just hear me out. I get it, social media never takes a vacation, so how can we and more importantly, why would we? Whether you use it every day or once a week, everyone, and I mean everyone needs a break from social media, and here’s why.

Stress

Beach ViewLet’s be honest with ourselves, social media can be stressful. Whether you are on it for fun or for work, everyone has that moment when they think to themselves “what would happen if I deleted my account?” It’s understandable that we want to know what’s happening all the time, but the truth is, we don’t need to know.

Picture yourself on a white sandy beach, looking out at crystal clear blue water in the warmth of the sun. Then imagine your friend just posted a picture on Facebook of her dog sitting on the couch with a bow in her hair and all of your friends are commenting about how cute the dog is. Are you really missing something if you’re not responding? The answer is always no, you’re not.

Off the grid

Muffin bluffin'We go to the grocery store, we go out to eat, we go to a concert, and what do we do? Share this information on social media. We’re in a world where we think everyone needs to know what we’re doing at all times, which is why falling off the grid every once in a while is a good thing. Social media allows us to keep tabs on each other, but it’s important to have moments of our lives that are just for us to know about. Plus, does everyone really need to know that you’re eating a muffin that looks awesome in the Instagram lens you chose?

Can’t live without it environment

Facebook MenuIf you think you can’t live without your social media profiles and that life as we know it would come to an end if you were disconnected for a few days, just think back to 2003 before social media really existed. If for over 2000 years people could live without social media, I think you could do it for a day or two.

Physical health

ScrabbleA lot of us use social media during the day at work, a lot of us use social media on our mobile devices at night. Whenever we choose to be on social media, it requires us to have our heads down and our eyes focused on some type of electronic device. After a while, this can cause strain on our eyes, promote laziness and actually cause you to be anti-social. A vacation from social media can force us to take our eyes off the screens we love to look at and give our bodies a rest from it all. Play a board game, go for a run, have conversations – in person.

Get social

SocializingSocial media has the word “social” in it for a reason – you have the ability to connect with people that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to connect with through these networks as opposed to face to face. The problem with this is that we as a society are growing reliant on social media in order to talk to people and connect with them, instead of traditional socialization.

Taking a vacation from social media is a great way to push yourself to get out there and meet people in person, make connections by physically talking to others and actually exchanging physical business cards as opposed to emails or text messages. While social media has done wonders for connectivity, nothing compares to the relationships that can be built from real life socialization.

So now I’m going to challenge you all to take a deep breath, step away from the computer and give it a shot. By giving up social media for even just one day, it could do wonders to your mentality and overall state of well-being. Good luck!

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