Saturday, 10 January 2015

Zazzle product grid content: Dynamic V Static - an evaluation

I recently had some correspondence with a fellow Zazzler about promoting. He's just starting to feel his way into a more business-focused approach and taking seriously the promoting of his Zazzle store and products.

Our back and forth turned to a discussion around the pros and cons of static and dynamic (feed generated) content.

I hunted around for an example of a site using dynamically created content from Zazzle and found this really gorgeous site called ButterflysAreBlooming. Please have a look, not only for the lovely designs but so I've got somewhere to use as an example for my comparison.

What am I comparing this against? Well, I've got a bee in my bonnet about the new Personalization Panel feature of SeeMyBest Pro. This is partly because of the amazing "stickiness" you get on the pages / blog posts you can get from it. By Stickiness, I mean that people end up spending time interacting with the page and tend to like coming back. Here's the example of a static content page, the one I'll be using as I compare (the personalization panel and product grid are what was created by SMB Pro, I just pasted the html it gave me).

In the end, I conclude that a mix of both dynamic and static is probably best.

In this comparison, I'm ignoring how 'pretty' both are, and am just looking at the various benefits and dis-benefits of the two approaches. My day job is as a business analyst and this would be how I would tackle it with that "hat" on.

Dynamic web pages

  • Debra's ButterflysAreBlooming site (and similar sites such as those built with the Zazzle Store Builder - ZSB). This uses what is known as a "feed-driven" product grid.
    1. Dynamic product grid used (feed-driven). Different products may be shown next visit because of popularity etc changes. Prices shown are always correct.
    2. Great product zoom feature (doesn't work on mobile),
    3. Ability to move easily to next page of displayed products
    4. The fact that Debra doesn't show product titles is a choice she made, so ignore their absence. Doesn't really matter because the search engine spiders have real trouble munching on feeds right now (and this will likely continue for years - they have no real incentive to do anything about it because, being a feed it MUST just duplicate what's elsewhere.)
    5. No tracking codes - feeds don't give you them "out of the box". You have to write code to add them. Downside is that without tracking codes you can't measure successes (dreadful place to be from the perspective of promoting. Imagine going to your marketing boss and s/he says "Right, you had a budget of 40 hours to spend. Did you spend it wisely or do I need to sack you and get someone who can?" And you say "Dunno, I didn't track any sales". Will you have a job tomorrow? No and no need to guess why!
      All us Zazzlers run businesses. The serious ones apply business principles as best they can in a continuous improvement cycle. The non-serious ones don't and fall by the wayside sooner or later.
    6. Suffers from people who spam their product tags and descriptions (feeds from the Z market place (i.e. not a named store) that are based on searches can be fooled by such tag/description spammers and you can end up with inappropriate stuff being displayed - not always a downside, I guess, but I don't like it.)

Static Web Pages
Karmani Designer Lifestyle - Monogram Wristlet Clutch Bags

  • SeeMyBest Pro's approach (product grid with personalisation panel)
    1. Static pages (if it's specifc to SMB Pro's output, I'll say so)
      • Prices, if you choose to show them, won't update
        - though when you Pin on Pinterest the Rich Pin aspect of SMB Pro's output ensures Pinterest shows the right price, even if you choose not to show them in your product grid
      • Great for the search engine spiders who have no trouble reading the product titles (and descriptions, if you choose to show them (config option in SMB Pro)
        • lots of lovely, yummy food to slurp up
        • they can't deduce it's a duplicate of what's elsewhere like they can with feed-driven content, so your page gets some SEO benefit.
        • I know this because, with static pages, I get to use Google Analytics and see people who have searched on Google, Bing and others coming to my pages.
      • Huge advantage of SMB Pro's static product grid - behind the scenes, all products use a thing called product markup (I have to do that to make the Pinterest pins "rich"). Google, Bing etc. love markup because it helps their spiders "understand" the product info on the page
      • The downside is static pages don't ever change unless you take manual action.
        • Rubbish for iPhone etc cases over a long period. This is because new models will come in and, unless you do something about it, they won't appear in your product grid.
        • There's no real harm, though, as they can just drift to the bottom of search engine results - the page will still get some long-tail results (few per month but over the lifetime of your web site, it adds up)

Other features of SMB Pro, while I'm at it

    1. In-built template text replacement feature.
    2. Provides for different tracking codes for different places the links appear / can be shared
    3. There's no automatic pagination of results - only one page, if that's all you make for a particular niche product / design. If you make more, you have to provide the navigation between them somehow.
    4. Doesn't suffer from tag / description spamming because you hand-select each and every product.
    5. Easy to make collections because of the hand-selection (like a complete set of stationery for a wedding, all with the same design) Brilliant with the personalisation panel!
    6. Leveraging (one action by you leading to a cascade effect) is in-built through the pin / sharing buttons - your referral id and tracking code are included in all pins / repins / shares / reshares. It's trackable down to which one was used and from which page / sharing location. This is because you do that during configuration for the page (great defaults are in place already to help you).

Overall conclusion (as it affects me)

  • I could build a tool to do what Debra's site achieves - pretty much do have that already with SeeMyBest's dynamic page builder feature (free and pro version of SMB)
  • I could therefore do either A or B but choose B because of the SEO aspects, the personalization panel (for sticky pages) and the additional intelligence I get with Google Analytics. You can still get some info from a dynamic page the same way, but because the spiders aren't seeing the dynamic content, it's not nearly as helpful to help in 'tuning' your promotion efforts.
Remember, there's presently a fully-functioning free trial version of SeeMyBest Pro for you to have a play with. See the Zazzle tools forum for how to get access.

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