The other day I got a suprise visit from some old friends. I invited them to stay and let me cook them supper but first I needed to go to the grocery store and get the ingredients. I promised them their patience would be rewarded by a meal that would even make the great Gordon Ramsey say "bloody fantastic!" (what can I say I like cooking shows). I didn't want to leave my guests waiting long so I raced off to the store with the theme song of 'Hell's Kitchen' playing in my head. On the drive there I plotted a mental map of the grocery store isles so I could plan the most efficient route to get what ingredients I needed for the meal. "Let's see, go to isle 3 for the seasonings, isle 7 for french bread..." and so on. The perfect plan to get me in and out of the grocery store in record time. My momentum, however, came to an abrupt stop once I got to the grocery store. They changed the layout of the majority of their products and isles. They moved things around from one isle into another, added new products and generally rearranged the entire store. Arrg! Big chain retail stores do this all the time nowadays. Very rarely can you walk into a big store and not have to search for a bit to find what you could have found easily a few months back. This often frustrating customer experience is based on studies that show that changes in layout can affect sales. After many many years of retail they know how to test changes that will affect their bottom line. They test product placement, test the customer experience and watch to see how it affects the stores profitability. They do this with lots of their different stores in different locations and when one layout proves to work they have all of their other stores try it out to help increase income. Successful online store owners do something very similiar with their webstore. They try different navigation layouts, product pictures/placement, monitor what links are getting clicked on the most and adjust the site layout accordingly. They test different images, colors and text content to see what changes result in the most sales. Successful online stores have tested a variety of different layouts and ideas to hone their business and increase sales. Just imagine how much you could learn building your webstore if you could see what changes and tests your top competitors have made to their sites over the years; see what changes they've made to ultimately arrive at the website you see them with today. Well you can... There's an archive online called "The WayBack Machine" (www.waybackmachine.org). This is a great FREE research tool for online sellers. You can literally look at how your biggest direct competitors have changed their website over the past decade. You often find their first websites they launched employ some of the same ideas you might be using or thinking about for your webiste but as you look thru their different website variations they've tested you begin seeing what ideas they've dropped, what ideas they kept and sometimes even new directions you hadn't considered yet. You can see the evolution of their site and how they got to where they are today with their current website. Now, you can't always guarantee that your competitors are making loads of money with their current site but if they have a decent rank in the search engine results and have been around for a few years then you can bet the site has been tweaked to be profitable. Learn from your competition and you can catapault your new online store into sales faster than starting your trial and error website variations from scratch. Here's some quick how-to's to get you started using the WayBack Machine: 1. Go to: www.waybackmachine.org 2. Enter in your competitors website address 3. You will first see what that competitors current website looks like, but at the top of the screen you have the ability to travel back in time. You can either click the blue "date" links. You can also click individual points *directly on* the waveform to the left of the dates. (I prefer to click different points on the waveform.) Give it a try it's kinda fun and great for competition research! Happy Researching and don't forget if you need help picking a product to sell or want the 411 on all of the cool Free research tools available online then come visit our site at www.SimpleMarketResearch.com

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