Monday, December 10, 2012

SimplePart Newsletter: October 2012

Welcome to our News and Update wrap-up for October 2012.

This month many of you have seen the beginning of the traditional 10% - 20% winter drop in volume. Compounding that, over the last week both Halloween and the wild weather in the US North East has noticeably cut into sales. Prepare for more slowing down through November and December as your shoppers focus their disposable income on travel, family and seasonal shopping.

This month, SimplePart added a new member to our Support team – his name is Nevin Miller, and when you call or email support he’ll be part of the team on-hand to help you.

We are talking currently with DealerTrack, ADP and Reynolds about better integration between SimplePart and your DMS systems. In its final form, this could allow us to synchronize pricing automatically every day, push order and customer information directly into your DMS systems, and automatically update customers on order status. These are the first steps in a long sequence, and we may ask for your help along the way. We think this integration can save everyone a great deal of time, and appreciate your support through the process.

We are back down to a more reasonable 3,400,000 page requests per day, down slightly from 3,800,000 daily page requests last month. The initial burst of traffic we got from Bing and Google spiders has tempered somewhat and settled into a fairly stable daily request rate. We continue to hover just above 1,000,000 monthly unique human visitors. October was another outage-free month.


1.       Social Queues. Some of you will have noticed a significant (50% in some cases) drop in traffic from Google that began in late July. We’ve been stressing on the increasing importance of social/community queues to search engine ranking, and what we’re seeing now is a significant bottom line impact. Those of you who had a strong social/community presence (Google+, Google Reviews, Reseller Ratings, Facebook Feed, Facebook Like button, Forum links, Google Local page, etc) saw no drop at all. Those of you who did not have this strong social/community presence saw a drop in web traffic from Google of up to 50%.

If you saw this drop and want those orders back, we can help you fix it. We do need to hear from you though, as creating and managing these social presences takes time, money and energy on both sides. 

2.       Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads. The Google Shopping service stopped being free on 10/17. For those of you who participate in Google Shopping Product Listing Ads (PLAs), you still show up in the free Google Shopping Service. For those of you who do not participate in PLAs, you no longer show up in the free service. Google Shopping has always been a strong source of orders, and at its peak was generating 30,000 website visitors per week.

It’s not too late to sign on with PLAs and get those orders back. Please let us know if you’d like to get set up with Google Shopping Product Listing Ads.

3.       Security. It gets talked about a great deal, but always in an abstract happens-to-someone-else way. Fact is, security breaches are far more common than most people realize. I’ve included a link below to a fantastic article documenting the timeline of a “hack” as experienced by a Wired reporter. This “hack” happened unexpectedly and was executed in minutes. It cost the reporter his phone, computer and tablet, and lost years of email, family photos and more. It’s a great read.

4.       Holiday Shopping Forecast. The National Retail Federation is predicting a 4.1% increase in retail sales through the holiday season. This is interesting to online commerce for parts, but not in itself directly related. What is interesting is how it compares to NRF’s data for this same time last year – they saw 5.6% growth through holiday 2011, and 5.5% growth through holiday 2010. What this suggests is that retail growth in sales over all for the holiday season this year will be softer than last year, and the year before. This of course does not take into account the effects that the recent weather will have on sales through the period which may hurt growth even more.

5.       Redundancy and Load Spanning. The availability and performance of our websites is something we take very seriously. Any time your website is slow or down, it not only affects your customers and their ability to find parts and place orders – but it also affects your “reputation” with search engines like Google and Bing. It’s very bad to be down, for lots of reasons. We are redundant “+2” which means that in addition to the hardware that is delivering your website right now, we have two more sets of hardware that are each capable of delivering your website – just in case. Should the current servers go down unexpectedly or require maintenance, we can seamlessly transition services to two other places. These other two server sets are also available to step in to handle unexpected spikes in load.

This is all possible only with correct configuration of your domain names. If you domains are not configured correctly, you do not get to take advantage of our redundancies or load-spanning. We offer these benefits, but you don’t have to take advantage of them if you don’t want to – however, there’s almost no reason not to.

In order to check whether your domain is correctly configured to take full advantage of the services we offer, you will want to look for one of these things:

1.       Your domain is configured to use our provider for all of its DNS. This will mean you have a list of DNS servers for your domain that include and that you have no DNS records of your own configured. With this option, we handle all the DNS and failover for you, but you do not have control over the mail servers configured for your domain.

2.       Your domain has its “A” record pointed to our primary production IP of and a “CNAME” record for “www” pointed to You also have a TXT SPF record that permits our IP to send mail on your behalf. We like to control the “A” record so that we can redirect from to but it’s not critical to day to day operations. That is, can be down because nobody should be using it. This option gives you MX record control, as well as control over any other subdomains you want to create.

This all can be a bit complicated. If you have any doubt as to whether you’re configured correctly, please call Support at (404) 520-7640 and we can help you check.

Tips for November

The holiday season is a great time to re-connect with your past customers. In the past 12 months we’ve completed 43,000 orders across all your websites – by emailing these people and offering them a coupon for a discount on their next order, you’re guaranteed to generate incremental sales. Through your Control Panel you can easily export a list of email addresses and names for customers who have purchased from you in the last year.

We can help you compose this email and construct your links in such a way that you can track performance of these email campaigns, and see the ROI broken down on your Control Panel. Email campaigns are simple and easy to do, and generate a noticeable boost in orders. Please contact us at (404) 520-7640 if you’d like more information on how this works.

New Features Just Released

1.       We now offer automatic synchronization with your DealerRater dealership reviews. If you have a DealerRater account, please let us know so that we can set this up. Your DR reviews will begin to show on a Testimonials page on your parts website, and will be read by Google.

2.       We now display the coupon name (in addition to the amount) on the Control Panel and the Print Order function.

3.       Revisions to the Assembly page were released which changed the way the image was displayed, image alt tag content, product links function, part numbers display and SEO-related tagging works.

4.       The SEO landing page was extensively revised to better target broad searches, and allow for more flexibility in landing page text and content.

5.       The way we secure and store sensitive customer information was changed, to incrementally improve security.

6.       Hosting of our secure pages (checkout and control panel, primarily) was changed, to incrementally improve security.

7.       Navigation options that were unused were removed from the Control Panel.

8.       Google’s Product Listing Ads now are beginning to show as separate traffic sources, with separate breakdown in reporting.

9.       DMOZ entries were created for all of our customer websites.

10.   Facebook feeds, Facebook “Like” and Google+ widgets were added to all customer websites.

11.   Revisions were made to checkout to support new sales tax legislation; your websites can now charge sales tax to any state you’d like.

12.   Revisions were made to model search strings, which improves how our search function recognizes models in text searches.

13.   Additional logging was added around customer record information, and customer order information.

14.   Modifications were made to the checkout process to better handle customers who begin the process, walk away for hours, then attempt to return.

15.   We can now display “Trust” seals for those of you who use These seals do increase Conversion Rates. If you would like yours to display, please contact us.

16.   Reports added to Control Panel: Cart Conversion by Day, Cart Conversion by Week, Conversion Rate Two Day Average, Product to Cart Conversion Rate by Day, Product Conversion Rate by Source by Day, Conversion Rate by Source by Day, Google Search Results Position by Page, GoogleBot Website Traffic by Hour, Google Product Entry Page Bounce Rate, Google Product Entry Page Conversion Rate, Google Product Entry Page Orders, Google Entry Click Detail (Product), Google Entry Clicks Product Parameters, Google Entry Clicks by page.

Thanks for your continued business, and please email or call if you have any questions, special requests or feedback on the newsletter.

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