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eCommerce and Entrepreneurship Blog: Top 10 Posts of 2010

Posted on December 29, 2010 by Josh Mc

As we reach the end of the year, it is time to recap the top ten blogs of the year on the eCommerce and Entrepreneurship Blog. This year brought many changes to internal sources like personnel, as well as external sources such as earthquakes in Chile and Google’s ever changing product, search. Our top blogs bring to light all of these changes as they show that our readers are interested in the many facets of business ranging from search engine marketing to supply chain management. Check out the posts below to see our top blogs, and catch up on some of the ones you may have missed.

10. My Favorite Interview Questions – Ellen starts us off with a blog that provided great resources for the every business HR rep by showing some of her favorite questions to ask prospective employees. There are some great ones in the list that can help you dive down into the employee’s motivations and work ethic.

9. Google Wave is Dead – There was so much promise with the release and marketing of Google Wave. I remember beta keys selling for hundreds of dollars on Ebay just to check it out early. Unfortunately it never was able to take off and officially died in 2010, highlighted by this post from Josh.

8. The Impact of Social Media on the Earthquake in Chile – My first entry into the top ten was a post on the interesting ways social media was helping to find survivors and connect relief workers with people on the street. This was a hard time for the world, but it was interesting to see the way social media affected it.

7. ForeSee Results Releases Spring 2010 Customer Satisfaction Index for Internet Retailer Top 100 – Vanessa wrote this post about the satisfaction index for the Internet Retailer top 100 companies. It was interesting to see, and showed that Netflix and Amazon are still the top rated companies in satisfaction.

6. Customized Facebook Publishing: Difficult but Doable – Trevor wrote one of his many posts on Facebook integration by helping webmasters to integrate the like button onto their websites pages. Definitely worth the read if you haven’t done it yet.

5. Google Site Speed Ranking Factor and SEO Dilemma – Google made a large amount of updates this year with different ranking factors, new products and different search add ons, but one of the most talked about was their addition of speed as a ranking factor for web pages. Josh covers this in detail on this blog.

4. Six Best iPad Apps for the Business Professional - The iPad turned into to one of the biggest stories this year, and still topped many peoples Christmas lists this holiday season. I bit the bullet early and invested in one; in this post I discussed my favorite apps (that weren’t called Angry Birds).

3. Internet Retail and MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) – Jeff wrote on the confusing topic of adhering to manufacturers MAP pricing. This is a really interesting article that I would suggest you read for more clarification.

2. PayPal Pay Later Replaced by Bill Me Later? – By far the most comment spammed blog this year was Zac’s post on Paypal getting rid of pay later in favor of Bill Me Later. PayPal finally made use of their acquisition of Bill Me Later in 2008.

1. From Google Street Views to Google Store Views – Our number one blog of the year was Vanessa’s recap on the tip Barry Schwartz received about Google taking pictures within a store to eventually provide store view (like street view) allowing the user to navigate around the store virtually.

Well that is it, our top blogs of the last year. Thanks to everyone who subscribed and commented on our blog this year. We can’t wait to keep the news, tips and information rolling into 2011!
Happy New Year from all of us at the eCommerce and Entrepreneurship blog!


Christmas Cheer From Customer Service

Posted on December 28, 2010 by Rissa

The holiday season seems to add extra stress to any eCommerce company. I know for us in customer service, we have a higher volume of calls and emails gearing up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. For the most part, customers will call us in a holiday rush to grab that last minute item they need for a renovation or a Christmas gift. Whether you are remodeling, giving a gift or in customer service yourself, the holiday season seems to be the best and busiest time of year for all of us.

In preparing for the weather delays and stress the holidays bring, I like to pick out some of the "stories" that helped me remember how great this time of year is. Here is my favorite.

I recieved a call from a sweet elderly lady asking about a chalk board. As we continued talking, she told me it was a Christmas present for her granddaughter and I could not help but tell her how excited she was. I told her a story of a little girl that wanted a chalk board for Christmas and her parents got one with colored chalk and she was so excited. Fifteen years later and I still love chalk boards so I told her if I was that little girl again I would want some colored chalk to go along with it. She thought it was a great idea and confessed she did not think to buy anything but the chalk board. I was able to find her colored and white chalk to go along with the board. Allowing me to relive a favorite childhood memory, and hopefully, allowing her to create one for her granddaughter.

Customer service can be hard, and some days it is so easy to forget there are people with stories waiting to be told. It is such a joy to assist these customers with the type of customer service that goes beyond what is required, when you realize Christmas morning there will be a young girl opening up her Christmas presents to play with that chalk board. Having moments like these remind me of the holiday season, while showing me that even during times of stress we can still make a difference.


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SEOmoz San Diego Meetup Review

Posted on December 22, 2010 by Josh Mc

Last night Tim, Zach and I had the opportunity to brave the crazy Southern California rain and make the trek down to San Diego for the SEOmoz Meetup.  The event was hosted by SEOmoz and Engine Ready at The Beer Company, which provided a great atmosphere for mingling and enjoying their food and drinks. SEOmoz even picked up the first two drinks which was a huge plus. The nights presentation went as follows:

Jamie Smith, Chairman and CEO, EngineReady
Topic: Beyond Google Analytics: Tools for Reporting Automation

Rand Fishkin, CEO & Founder, SEOmoz
Topic: Top 10 Things SEOs Have Learned in 2010

Jamie Smith started the night off and had some interesting data and information, before Rand came and gave a great presentation on the 10 SEO lessons learned from 2010 (Check out his presentation slides).

Rand Slides, SEOmoz

Some of the interesting topics he addressed were
-    Google’s new ranking metrics via social media, including the difference between tweets and links
-    The importance of mentions, even without links
-    Google’s shift to local being strong with Marissa Mayer moving and the attempted aqusition of Groupon
-    LDA
-    Link spam still working
-    Video, images and social all providing opportunity in the future

Rand Speaking, SEOmoz

Rand Presenting

He stayed around afterwords and talked to anyone that had a question. This was really cool as there was a line of at least 10 people at all times for an hour after his presentation waiting to pick his brain on the ways SEO could effect their sites. 

Gordian Project with Rand from SEOmoz

Zach, Tim, Rand, Josh

All in all this was a great night, I wish these events happened more in Southern California. Big thanks to all of the folks at SEOmoz, which makes great SEO Software, for putting on this event and making it free to come and join. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Was anyone else there? What did you think of the event?



Why Your Google Talk Isn't Making Friends

Posted on December 15, 2010 by Joelle

For months, co-workers have been asking me, “Why have you not accepted my chat request?” Digging into it, I soon realized that I could not invite or accept any chat requests on Google Talk. I was puzzled, I must have

invited the same person over 20 times without being able to add them. Q+A sites all over the Internet that have posed this question with no answer....until now!

I discovered that there is a button in Gmail Talk settings that says, “Add people I communicate with often to my Friends List.” This will add anyone you communicate with often from your email to your Friends List in Google Talk. I went to my contact list to discover that I had 10,000 contacts (Google's maximum), which was the reason I could not chat with any new contacts. After removing 9,982 contacts from my contact list, I was successfully able to chat with the co-workers in my office, who must have thought I was avoiding them for months.

If Google Talk has blocked you from receiving or sending invites, follow the steps below for an easy fix!

1) Open your Google Talk window > select settings.
2) In the general tab, un-check “Add people I communicate with often to my Friends List.”
3) Go to your Gmail account, on the left hand side select contacts.
4) There you will see a list of your contacts.
5) To mass delete contacts click the first contact then hold shift while clicking the last contact. This will select all contacts and then you can un-click the ones you want to keep.

Hope this helps you out!

Google Zeitgeist: 2010 Year in Review

Posted on December 9, 2010 by Josh Mc

Google always finds ways to make search seem cool in their videos. If you do not remember they were one of the standout commercials at the last Superbowl with this video. So instead of simply releasing a list of their biggest searches of the year, they took it a step further and made a really well done video that seamlessly intertwines many of their products and services with the top searches in the world during 2010. Check it out below, and let us know what you think in the comments.



Gaming Google's Rankings By Being Bad

Posted on December 6, 2010 by Trevor

The Google ranking mechanism is an interesting topic, as having good organic rankings has become the lifeblood of many businesses. Most people, when searching Google, find what they are looking for on the first page or two, so getting your link at the top can be the most important thing you can do to increase sales. It's always struck me as odd that power over such a large sector of the economy has come to be in the hands of a single company. Not that I think Google is doing a bad job. As a customer, I've always found that Google returns the best search results for my queries. Nevertheless, such a centralized system does have its downsides.

Rather than parsing and ranking sites by hand, an insurmountable task, Google relies on a complex internal algorithm to automatically return appropriate search results. Since this algorithm is at the heart of most of its ventures, Google keeps a careful eye on it, remaining tight-lipped about its internal details and reserving entire teams toward fine-tuning and updating it. Even so, any algorithm can be susceptible to gaming, and the promise of doing so is so great in Google's case that there is no shortage of attempts.

One recent story that's come to light is of a small eye wear company called "DecorMyEyes" that did just that. As it turns out, the owner of the one-man operation did everything in his power to enrage his customers and generate public complaints. Why? Well, there's a saying in show biz that goes, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." It turns out, that saying was literally true online. Many of the posts and articles lambasting the company's service also included a link to its site. Google, noticing the many links but oblivious to the reason for them, happily kicked the site up the rankings until it was near the top. Then visitors, seeing a site near the top of the rankings, would visit and make purchases. It was an ingenious attempt to exploit a loophole in Google's algorithm, and for a while it worked pretty well.

However, due to the additional exposure the company gained through the article I linked, Google itself became aware of the situation. Clearly directing Google visitors to sites that cheat and threaten them is not in Google's best interest, so they quickly set about rectifying the situation. They soon made a blog post announcing that the loophole had been closed. Unfortunately for us, Google remains as tight-lipped as always regarding the details of their solution, mentioning only that they are not specifically blacklisting the site or using some kind of content analysis to detect "negative" links. Presumably, then, they are analyzing the traffic to this and similar sites, and picking up subtle differences from legitimate retailers.

Of course, this is good news for those of us who *are* legitimate retailers and pride ourselves on giving a good customer experience. Presumably this same algorithm should not only eliminate fraudsters, but also lower the rankings of competitors that attempt to maximize volume at the expense of individual customer experience. However, as I said before, any algorithm is susceptible to gaming. This is simply one more step in the fight between Google (who needs to keep visitors coming by serving them relevant and desirable search results) and online businesses (many of whom want to capture as many of Google's visitors as possible, regardless of relevance or desirability). Only time will tell how effective this measure will be, or where the next threat will appear.

Update: After I made this post, one more event in the story has occurred. Vitaly Borker, the owner of DecorMyEyes, has been arrested on counts of fraud and threats. So, as it turns out, there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity for Mr. Borker.


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Hey Google! The EU Says Don’t Be Evil

Posted on December 3, 2010 by Suzanne

Google’s unofficial slogan is seemingly being dragged through the mud lately with some pretty serious allegations from three competitors. The complaints caused the European Union to announce on Tuesday that it would be launching an investigation to find out if the search engine giant was guilty of manipulating search results in its favor. The Washington Post is reporting that the E.U. will be focusing on the following areas:

1) Rankings: Google allegedly lowered the ranking of unpaid search results of competitors that specialize in services such as price comparisons. The firm has also allegedly given preferential placement of its own search services in order to shut out competitors.

2) Sponsored Advertising: Google allegedly lowered the 'Quality Score' for sponsored links of competing vertical search services. The Quality Score is one of the factors that determine the price paid to Google by advertisers.

3) Advertising Obligations: Google allegedly forced exclusivity obligations on advertising partners, preventing them from placing certain types of competing ads on their Web sites, as well as on computer and software vendors, with the aim of shutting out competing search tools.

4) Data Portability: Google allegedly restricted services from transporting advertising campaign data to competing online advertising platforms.

In the SF Gate on Tuesday, Microsoft, who went through their own E.U. investigation offered up some advice on what Google should expect.   Here are the highlights:

* The EU will listen to your competitors, but not to you. In the digital media case, the EU seemed to believe what RealNetworks and other competitors told it: that there was a dynamic market for software-based digital media players, if only Microsoft would stop shutting them out. When Microsoft tried to respond by explaining the realities of the market--for instance, PC makers don't want to give customers too many choices of default software because it raises support and manufacturing costs--the EU didn't listen.

* You're dealing with regulators, not techies. The EU seemed to believe that removing the Windows Media Player was as easy as uninstalling any other application. When Microsoft tried to explain that the Player had deep ties within the guts of the OS, and asked specific questions like "which DLLs would you like us to remove?" they were met with meaningless answers or silence.

* The EU will impose a remedy to save face. The order to ship a version of Windows without the Media Player was never going to work--and this employee suspects the EU knew it. The regulators weren't stupid. But after spending years and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, the EU couldn't just say "pay a big fine and nothing else has to change." It had to impose a behavioral changing remedy, even if it turned out to be ineffective.

* Don't take your eye off the competition. The EU investigation did change how Microsoft does business in some critical ways--the rulings gave the company certain new rules which it now abides by, such as "you must offer consumers a way to remove Windows features" and "no integrating formerly separate products (like Bing search) with Windows without talking to the lawyers." It also showed Microsoft that it needs lobbying power with governments, and couldn't afford the faux-naive "we're just a little technology company" stance that it took in the 1990s. But in the end, competition in the digital media market was restored by competitors, not the EU. One big competitor in particular: Apple. As this employee said "we didn't stop doing PlaysForSure because the EU made us, we did it because we kind of got our butt handed to us.”

Google may want to take that last point to heart since at least two of the complainants have direct ties to Microsoft. You be the judge. Is this just two of the biggest competitors in the tech world using the E.U. to jockey for the coveted top spot in search, or is Google really just being evil?


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Bing Redefines Social Shopping with Shopping Lists

Posted on December 1, 2010 by Josh Mc

Today Bing announced it would take its Facebook implementation further by creating Bing Shopping Lists. Bing Shopping Lists is an helpful new feature from a search engine that has had many cool innovations in the last year. First it makes the constant question of “where is your Christmas list” a thing of the past. By simply browsing Bing shopping you can find the products you want right away and add them to your shopping list that Bing manages for you. From there you can easily share them on your Facebook wall, giving you the option of asking your friends which of the items on your list is the best, as well as the ability to send the list to whoever on your friends list will buy you a gift.

Bing Shopping Lists

I personally think this is a cool idea and wouldn’t be surprised to see Google adopt it in the future. What are your thoughts?


Web Development for the Non-Programmer: Sessions, States and Cookies

Posted on November 30, 2010 by Trevor

My last article in this series discussed the process that a server follows to produce a web page. To simplify things for that article, I considered the generation of the page on its own, without interaction from a larger context. However, one of the major needs for any sizable site is to interact with visitors on an individual basis, responding to actions they take and remembering preferences they've indicated. Web developers must use special methods to provide this degree of interactivity.

Web pages operate on what is called a "stateless" protocol. That is, every time a web page is requested, it is treated as an entirely separate event, without indication of former interaction (with certain exceptions I'll mention below). In order to tie the pages in a site into a seamless experience for the visitor, developers have to emulate states (different behavior based on former interactions) using server code and data passed between the server and the client.

States are emulated like this: when a new visitor requests a page for the first time, along with the page the server sends back a unique identifier for that visitor. The next time the visitor requests a page, the identifier is sent back along with the request. The server recognizes the identifier and makes any necessary adjustments in the generation of the page, then sends the new page (and usually the identifier again as well) back to the visitor. This game of tennis continues as long as the visitor keeps requesting pages and the server keeps recognizing the identifier.

There are several forms this identifier can take. One method is to add a hidden form field (similar to the ordinary form fields where you are asked to type in, say, an email address) that is passed along when a visitor submits a form. However, this has the disadvantage that the user must click on specific buttons or links in order to keep this going. To get around this problem, the server can send a "cookie" to the client. A cookie is a piece of data that the client stores and sends back to the server whenever it requests a page. It can be any type of data, but one of the most common is a session identifier. This allows the server to keep track of the visitor whether the page was requested through a form or a link or just typed into the address bar. It's also possible for the server to recognize the client from data that is already available (such as the IP address or previous page), but this is unreliable and is rarely used by itself for establishing sessions.

With a method for establishing the identities of its clients, the server is then able to serve up pages customized for each client. One such application is client accounts. The methods used to set up a session don't require the visitor to log in or verify their identity, but if the developer adds a login page and stores the credentials on the server, the visitor can then log in from any computer and link their session with their account on the server. This allows them to perform private transactions like buying a product or storing sensitive information without fear that others will be able to access their account. Of course, it's also useful for remembering the visitor's preferences between visits.

One issue that developers have to deal with regarding sessions is their use of cookies. Due to both misconceptions and legitimate issues, many people have negative associations about cookies. One misconception is that cookies can compromise a computer. In fact, cookies are only passive pieces of data; they can't "infect" a computer or cause it to perform any actions at all, let alone malicious ones. Neither do they allow servers to gather private data about a computer; they are simply generated on the server and not modified by the client, so any data stored in a cookie was already available to the server when it was generated. Now, this is not to say that cookies cannot be misused. Some advertisers use cookies to track visitors across multiple sites (only the sites that have ads from that advertiser, though) and determine their browsing habits. These are called "third party cookies", and many people consider this an intrusion of privacy. An important responsibility for web developers is to use cookies in a way that is helpful to visitors rather than intrusive.

You can find the other posts in this series below.

Web Development for the Non-Programmer: Web Applications and Servers

Web Development for the Non-Programmer: Browsers and Programming Langauges

Web Development for the Non-Programmer: Introduction


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Google Boost: Google Places Results in Paid Search

Posted on November 24, 2010 by Chad

At this time, Google is beta testing a new feature called Google Boost. Google Boost is a disruptor for those bidding on PPC ads as it takes away one of the coveted ad positions and replaces it with a Local Ad. This feature is currently only being tested in three areas: San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. Essentially, Boost Ad’s are designed to list a sponsored “Place” Ad when a user searches for something related to them. This change is good for Google as it allows them to accept local ads from locations all around the world, in additional to the national marketers that are always bidding on these ads.


As Josh wrote about regarding Google's change to local results, it certainly seems like “Places” are becoming of great interest to Google. Boost’s Ads may not necessarily be an appreciated addition to some search marketers, especially if their strategy is to take over a certain Ad position, like 2 or 3, in a search result. However, for local businesses, this seems like a real plus in which they could ultimately gain great exposure for their business. If you are interested in Google Boost, you can fill out this form here to express your interest in the feature. 

What do you think? Is this a good or bad addition?