Website, Pros and Cons

If you own a comic book store, you either have a website or are considering one.  No matter the size of your business, a website can benefit your store.  But is it worth the extra expense and time it would take?  If you do decide to do one, should you sell on it or just give the basic information.  And how do you get people to actually visit it?  As someone who has been on the net for a long time (I started this site in February 1997), I can give you some advice on getting started and how to help become a success.

The first thing I will tell you is that having a website is pretty much a must have in today's market.  The nice thing is that it is very easy to find an affordable web host.  There are ones as low as $5.00 a month.  I remember when I first came in and it was nearly $100.00 a month for a 20 meg site.  Now I have a site that is 20 times as big at almost a tenth the price.  So the monthly cost is not too bad.  But the price to set up can be.  It all depends on how elaborate you want your website to be.  I personally use Frontpage as it is easy to use and with some time, I learned to do it myself.  Sure it is not a super fancy site with all kinds of animations and flash movies but it gets tons of hits and does well.  I found that offering alot of content will go alot further than some fancy animations or movies that wow people once and then they never come back.  While it may be nice to hire someone to set up your site, I think it is better to invest some time and learn to do it yourself.  This way you can update it as much as you like without having to rely on someone to do it for you.  There are plenty of powerful and easy to use products.  Frontpage is but one of many.  Find the one that fits you best.

The first thing you will want on your website is all the relevant information.  Store location, store hours and contact information are first and foremost.  You may want to put up some basic directions from the nearest cities.  Also list what products you carry.  A website should be treated like an extended phone book ad.  It needs to get people's attention and it needs to have all the important information right in front of the visitor.  One suggestion is to put your store's address and hours at the bottom of each page of your website.  Also put your email address.  If you want to limit the number of junk mail you get, make your email a link that says "click here to send email" or something like that.  That way it will not show up when spammers send harvesting programs to look for emails to add. 

Two pages you can consider are the guest book and the message boards.  These are good ways to add a personal touch to your site but they can also both be nightmares.  While most people will put something nice in a guest book, some people will say horrible things because they can and for a laugh.  While message boards are a great way for people to feel a part of your site, it is also a place for spammers to fill it.  You need to be diligent about weeding out the spam and this can be more time consuming that it is worth.  That is why I do not bother with either.

One question you will be faced with is whether or not to sell comics and/or other items on your site.  I find that websites are a great way to sell comics.  Unlike ebay, you can usually get more for your books and you will find that there are many books that sell well on your site that may not sell well on ebay or at your store.  But it takes time and effort to successfully sell online.  Take it from someone who used to sell over a thousand books a month, it is a lot of work.  The most important thing is to make sure and keep your site updated.  If you are sold out of a book, remove it as soon as possible.  If you get new books, put them up right away.  As your selection gets larger, you may want to consider a page that says what new books you added.  This way your loyal customers can know exactly what was added and not have to wade through page after page of comics.

If you are selling online and at your store, you may want to consider having two different inventories.  This way it is easy to keep track of.  Nothing customers hate worse than wanting to buy some comics and find that they are out of stock.  So be diligent with updating the site.  This is another reason to do it yourself instead of hiring someone. 

While they were not around when I started, it is almost a must have to offer a shopping cart program.  These make buying on your site easy for customers and ease and convenience are two things they look for.  A good shopping cart program can be expensive but there is a free alternative.  Paypal offers a free shopping cart.  It is limited to what it can do but it is free and Paypal is the biggest way to pay on the internet.  If you sell online, Paypal is a must have.  The easiest way to accept credit cards on your website and the safest. 

Here are a few tips for promoting your site.  First, start a links page.  It is a good way to exchange links with other comic sites.  Second is to look into joining a few webrings.  These are groups of similar sites that all have connecting banner ads.  It is a good way to bring in new visitors.  Next, in your email signature, make sure to have your website name and address.  This way it will go to everyone you email.  Also if you participate in newsgroups, put it in your signature.  This way when you are talking about who would be the best actor to play Superman or which X-Men is your favorite, you are also advertising your site without being intrusive.

Ebay is not only a great place to sell items, it is also a great place to advertise.  But you have to be careful as they will kick you off if you blatantly advertise your site.  One way to advertise your site is to make the website address part of your ebay name.  If your site is called, then make that your screen name.  That way every time you buy or bid on something, you are advertising your site.  You can also put that in your ad on ebay as long as you don't put the http or www in front of it and make it a link. 

That should be enough to get you going.  Look for an upcoming article about some of the books that sold well for me.  Good luck and hope you are successful!



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