How to Promote Your Business in Facebook Groups

This post is inspired by question on Reddit, I thank user flower_skull for that. 🙂

Here’s how you can promote your business in Facebook groups for mutual benefit of all participants:

Group moderators hate spammers. Users do, too. I quickly unsubscribe from groups, which have nothing, but spam (especially pictures).These groups are dead even if they still have many users. Not much value there for anyone.

Instead, you should join groups where many real discussions happen, real questions are asked and real answers are provided. Join such groups in your niche and simply become active there by ACTUALLY HELPING PEOPLE. For example, for my ecommerce business I joined groups for truck drivers. I link to this blog from groups related to eCommerce etc. You got the idea.

Yes, that simple! If you provide some service or sell something, someone needs it. You are competent in your niche (at least you should be if that’s your business, otherwise I’m sorry for you). So help others! But don’t spam! Link to your stuff only if it’s directly related to the topic discussed and content actually helps to solve the problem or answer the question. I do it regularly and have never been banned for that. Why? Because that’s not spam, that’s an actual contribution! People hate the first, but have nothing against the second.

Just focus on creating content, which is is really useful, then use it to solve problems others face and you’ve got some quality free traffic!

Have questions? I’m always here to answer! 🙂

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7 Steps to Choosing Your Best Market Niche

I decided to write about choosing a market niche for your business once again, cause this is a very popular topic and I feel like I missed some important details last time.

How to Choose Your Market Niche

This is a quick seven-step guide for entrepreneurs who don’t know yet what market niche to choose (this question arises so often I wrote a couple of posts on the matter and finally decided to write this guide as well). OK, I promised it to be quick, so let’s begin.

Make a list of what YOU need

Sit down, take a piece of paper or open a word processor (like I do now, cause my handwriting ability atrophied long ago due to writing online too much) and list every product or a service that YOU would like to buy online, but can’t decide where. Notice, I am not saying find something that’s IMPOSSIBLE to buy. You just need a niche that’s not completely occupied by a single player (like Amazon for books). As long as some niche is mostly occupied by smaller players, you have a chance. Write down whatever you come up with. Come back to re-read the list in a couple of days. It’s always a good idea to take a second look at things when your head is fresh from initial excitement. Did you come up with anything viable? Great! You didn’t? No problem!

Make a list of what people you know need

Just repeat step one with people you know. Talk to your family, friends and colleagues. Anyone you know. Good idea is also not just talking, but LISTENING. People sometimes tell you more unconsciously than they do deliberately. Listen to any small talks around etc. Ideas will come if you’re tuned to catch them. Found something? Good! Nothing? Keep listening and add…

Make a list of what people online need

Online research. Online forums, Reddit, social networks are all absolutely awesome tools to look for what people ask for and therefore, need. Note, I’m not saying “Google for people’s needs”, because if you do such a search, results will most likely show what people SELL, not what they need. You need genuine questions about problems and needs. Found something? You almost certainly did. If you didn’t yet, just keep digging for information, it will certainly come. Needless to say it’s better to combine all these steps. It will save you a lot of time and your choice will be much more reliable if you cross-test it in different forms (ideally, find something online, then ask people you know about it, get a confirmation and think that you like that thing yourself).

Analyze what of those needs YOU can meet

Alright, now think if you can meet that need? Do you have required skills, funding etc.? Sometimes ideas are realistic, sometimes not. We all have to deal with this hard fact. I’d probably like to compete with Elon Musk in his fantastic projects, but it’s not very likely that I’m able to succeed at it. Probably you like the idea so much that you’re ready to learn a new skill or get a funding. Great! Do that (but always have a plan B in case of failure. Living in a carton box sucks even for enthusiastic entrepreneur). In many cases you probably have the necessary skill and can afford the project. That’s even better! Nobody requires you to start with something epic. Most large corporations started as small businesses. So why break that good habit of Great Apes?

Analyze the market reaction to your chosen niche

Now, when you have the idea of your product or service, do some analysis to see how people react to it. Don’t give away private details, your potential competitors are looking for ideas, too! Just provide a general description, probably even disguised as a question. Now you have stats of your search for needs and stats for an attitude toward your particular business idea. Frankly, step one is enough, because people often tend to under-react to questions about business ideas (we’re all hardwired to be a little bit skeptic about anything new). But having a double confirmation is even better of course!

Find and set up a business model for your chosen niche

Now as you decided what to do, develop a business model. Plan your budget, find a supplier or a producer, negotiate pricing, payment, shipment and the rest of details. Make sure you found a software platform that meets your business needs and is easy to use for customers. Be conservative at first. Don’t order too much of a single product if you’re not diversified. Living in a home full of unsold boxes of useless stuff is not much better than living in a carton box!


Now it’s time to get your feet wet! I assume you’ve got something in an inventory (or a drop-shipment agreement), set up a website, payment gateway etc. Launch it! From day one search engines will start to index your site and soon you’ll notice organic traffic (which is quality and FREE!). But you don’t want to wait, right? I didn’t! So you also launch a PPC (pay per click) advertising campaign. But that’s a topic of our next guide, which you will receive if you follow my blog.

I wish you choose a market niche, which makes you good money and brings a lot of satisfaction! If this guide helps, please tell me how it did. If it doesn’t, please tell what didn’t work, so that I can give you advice on what can be done to succeed anyway.

Now, just go and do it!

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Quick Way to Add per Product Free Shipping in WooCommerce

Today I decided to add a free shipping option for some products I sell. There are many plugins, which guarantee you easily do that for just $49 or $79, but we don’t go the easy way, right? 🙂

So I spent maybe half an hour and as a result, here’s the solution:

1. You add a shipping class, which you name, say, “Free Shipping”.
2. You go to settings of your flat rate shipping (by regular post in my case). It says that you can ADD a certain cost for a certain shipping class. It confused me (and many before me I bet), looked like there’s no way to DEDUCT a cost until I tried to…
3. Write in a NEGATIVE number. In my case flat shipping rate by post is 500 RUB, so I wrote in -500 for a shipping class “Free Shipping” and voila! Shipping rate for that product class turned into free!

I’m sure this little trick will save many of you time and money.

XMLRPC Attack on WordPress

Today my Linode server, which hosts this site was attacked. Performance slowed down drastically, I realized something is wrong, checked web server access log and it was clear: repeated requests for xmlrpc.php from several IP’s.

In case you ever face the same problem (it seems to be common), here’s the solution for Linux VPS servers:

If you experience sudden drop in web server performance, check your access log. Here’s how my log looked few hours ago:


Disable xmlrpc.php access on web server level by adding the following text to your .htaccess file:

<Files “xmlrpc.php”>
Order Allow,Deny
deny from all

Ban attacking IP’s using iptables (Linux built-in firewall):

iptables -I INPUT -s -j DROP (where “” is an IP address of an attacker)

For the longer-term result it also makes sense to add Fail2Ban rule to your server, so that it bans attackers automatically.

Done! Everything took like 5 minutes! That’s what I like about VPS. You control everything. The other side of the coin is of course that if you don’t know how to fix something, you got problems (you’re an entrepreneur after all, not a network administrator). In such a case you can go with managed service, such as WP Engine or WordPress hosting packages with hosting companies like DreamHost. They usually take care of technical and security issues that may arise and at least you can always contact their technical support and ask for qualified help. Probably they even have this problem prevented in advance.

Bear in mind: if you manage your server yourself, you better have your WordPress installation regularly updated. Xmlrpc vulnerability is old and latest WP releases can only experience performance decrease, but consequences for older releases can be much more severe.

Word of caution: blocking xmlrpc.php can make certain WordPress plugins non-functional. Use this trick as an emergency measure, backup your settings and if something gets broken, investigate the issue in more details. Myself I run WordPress + WooCommerce and a few non-critical plugins, so had no troubles after blocking xmlrpc.php, however it’s not a universal solution by any measure.

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Currency Symbol in WooCommerce

After updating my non-English WooCommerce to a new version I faced the following problem: currency symbol didn’t show up on Android devices and Linux desktops. I decided to simply change it back to “RUB” text. Of course you can also perform the opposite task this way and change your WooCommerce currency symbols to whatever you want.

To do this, add the code posted HERE (official WooCommerce website) in functions.php file of your child theme (which I insist, you should use).

However, it didn’t work for me from scratch, because some points were missed in the description. I’ll list them now so that you avoid having the same issue:

Here’s the code I placed in my functions.php file.

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_currencies’, ‘add_my_currency’ );

function add_my_currency( $currencies ) {
$currencies[‘ABC‘] = __( ‘Currency name‘, ‘woocommerce’ );
return $currencies;

add_filter(‘woocommerce_currency_symbol’, ‘add_my_currency_symbol’, 10, 2);

function add_my_currency_symbol( $currency_symbol, $currency ) {
switch( $currency ) {
case ‘ABC‘: $currency_symbol = ‘$‘; break;
return $currency_symbol;

Red text is what you should change to your particular currency, green is where to place your desired currency symbol. It works for me with a Storefront child theme. If for some reason it doesn’t work for you, please let me know in comments so that we can find a fix suitable for everyone.

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Common Reasons for a Broken XML Sitemap in WordPress

Today I realized that sitemap (generated by Google XML Sitemaps plugin) of my online store was broken! The following error was returned: “error on line 2 at column 6: XML declaration allowed only at the start of the document”.

I did some Google homework and realized it’s a very common issue. It was fixed quickly and I hope this post will help you fix it even faster if you ever face it or better yet, prevent it.

The solution is amazingly simple: blank line or a space in your functions.php after “?>” (the last tag in the file). There happened to be one, when I edited my functions.php file last time and it caused the problem. One Backspace button hit. Problem solved!

Here’s the original article where I found this solution. It presents a number of other solutions in case your problem has different roots.

Google (XML) Sitemap Generator Plugin Help

Please let me and other people know if it helps you or if it doesn’t so that we can find a better solution.

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Why Image Watermarks are Important

IMPORTANT UPDATE! I switched to Easy Watermark WordPress plugin and like it much more. Don’t forget to install GD library for your PHP engine to make it (or another watermark plugin) work.

One day I realized that I often visit websites, when I browse through Google images and see a link as a watermark on an image I like. I also knew that search engines index images from my site too. Obviously it meant I was missing some free traffic! So I quickly fixed that.

For WooCommerce, which I use, I took a free Image Watermark plugin. There are many premium watermark plugins for WordPress, such as this one, but I settled with the free version, cause I sell physical products and just wanted to bring in more traffic, protection of my images from copying is a good thing, but not critical.

If your eCommerce platform is Shopify, there are some effective watermark plugins as well. Here are the most popular ones: (free to $2.99) ($15 flat fee) ($10 a month with a free 3 day trial)

Whatever solution you choose, remember: watermark on your images is not just brand recognition and safety from copyright violation. It’s traffic. High quality, targeted traffic, because people, who visit your site by typing in a watermark URL are looking at a picture of YOUR product!

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Why You Should Have Live Chat Software on Your eCommerce Site

It’s going to be a short post. But it will make you more money. I know that for sure, because it makes me money. Some “secret ways” to additional profits are really shortcuts.

Somehow, I was sceptical about those little pop-ups that say “Chat with Us”. Thought that’s something useless. But eventually decided to try and installed JivoChat on my site. Guess what? It works! The first day one person contacted me. He left a message, because I was offline (not logged into chat software on PC). Answering to questions asked while I was offline brought me some sales.

Then I found out that I can install an app on my smartphone and be available for chat whenever I want. Guess what? It brought me even more sales. I can’t say it changed things dramatically, but calculation is simple: I set up the software in January 2016. After 14-day free trial ended I renewed for $10.49 per month. Today is March 26th, 2016. I closed about $450 worth of sales (about $150 pure profit) from chat leads. In other words, that’s more than 500% ROI not counting LCV (lifetime customer value). Is it a lot of money? Nope. Is it worth it? Undoubtedly!

Below is a history of offline requests and an online request (when I was at my desk). Some chats also happened via mobile. If you’re serious about eCommerce, I now believe such a virtual shop assistant app is a must!

P. S. Just today I realized that it also shows which page user visited, when asked a question, where he came from etc.


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Basic SEO Trick for eCommerce Store

After we got another large order last week my wife asked, “why did they buy from us and not from the manufacturer directly or a larger vendor (they all present online for much longer than us).

My answer was very simple: “SEO, darling.” 😀

Here’s the basic principle:

I always list every single product under an optimized address that makes SEO sense. For example, if I sell an automotive lamp (my niche), WordPress (WooCommerce) permalink would look like: “philips-h3-12v-55w-automotive-lamp”, never like “?/=123” or “product-123”. Never!

I almost feel shy for such a short post, but that’s about everything I can tell about the mother of SEO for me: always have your product URL as a short description of that product. There are more tricks of course, but this one is the number one reason for why many search queries in my niche result in my site showing up WAY higher than sites that’s been around for years. Guess who gets more search engine driven sales now? 😉

Good news is it’s also a completely “white hat” SEO tactics. No dirty tricks that may get punished, nothing like that. All clear, makes sense for robots and human visitors and that’s why it works so well. Please, if you’re not sure yet, check if all links on your site are built this way. They should be.

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How Pay-Per-Click Marketing Changed in Ten Years

I use PPC (pay-per-click) marketing for eleven years. Started to experiment in 2003 and launched full-scale campaigns in March 2004. Today I’d like to talk about how it changed since then and how we can make the most money with it.

Here’s how traffic stats for one of my PPC campaigns on a small Australian search engine looked in 2004:


As you can see, I have sent nearly a million clicks to a landing page from that search engine and spent approximately $56,000. Each click has cost me $0.06 on average. I had conversion rates of 1:100 to 1:200 for such campaigns, which effectively produced ROI close to 100%.

Sounds like a dream? Makes you miss those days when you could buy clicks that cheap and make twice the money invested in digital marketing, right? Wrong!

Here’s a screenshot of another campaign on another “minor” search engine (not The Big G, I’ll tell you in one of next posts, why I often prefer other PPC services). Report period is November 2015:


It’s in Russian, but easy to understand. Columns are Dates, Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Money Spent, Average CPC (cost per click), Average Money Spent per Day. Currency is Russian Ruble, so you can guess I have spent equivalent of less than $40 on that campaign. Each click cost about $0.05. Conversion rate is around 1:20-1:30.

ROI? Over 500% directly and way over 1000% recurring (if we count customers who purchased more than once since their first visit). I don’t even know the actual “final” ROI, because it’s currently projected into the future. Extrapolated figures are too subjective, so I won’t discuss them now (but will include in an email PPC report sent to subscribers of this blog as I collect more statistical data).

The main difference is, back in 2004 I ran fewer campaigns, each received way more clicks, search phrases were much broader. Today I receive much less clicks per campaign, key phrases are much more targeted and ROI of each campaign is way higher. Also I run more campaigns (over 30 to be exact) and keep adding as I add more products and sub-niches.

What can we conclude from these numbers? At today’s prices hardly you would make any money doing what I did back in 2004 simply because you would go underwater at click price of just over $0.12 and even that price is nearly impossible to get for general key phrases in 2016.

However it’s very possible to get good prices for highly targeted key phrases if you don’t shoot for thousands of clicks. What you do is pick key phrases carefully, thoroughly test them and keep your campaigns low-profile (not too many clicks, not the top position). You compensate it with more campaigns and a higher ROI.

As you can see, there’s no such thing as “the good old days” if you know how to manage the present. 😉

If you want to share your PPC marketing experience, you are welcome to do it in comments to this post or as a guest poster, just let me know!

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