Tracy Hoogenboom is the owner of ToeRings.com. She is married and the mother of triplets (21) plus one (19). She has worked from home for the last 20 years. She has contributed to the non-profit world at Sidelines National Support Network, and created an online support program for pregnant moms over 15 years ago. She started ToeRings.com in 2001. She is the second parent of triplets I have interviewed this month. As a parent of triplets myself, I assure you this is purely coincidental and not some triplet parent cult thing.
Mike: Can you give a little background on your business?
Tracy: Launched the site in Oct 2001. I hired a guy who developed the first online banking software to design a simple site for me. That original site was up until May of this year! Over the years we have managed with 1-2 extra helpers in the busy season May – Sept. My two daughters and their friends have been my employees.
Mike: What gave you the idea to start ToeRings.com?
Tracy: About 12 years ago I went on a trip to the beach with my friend, and she took me to a booth at the local art festival to get a fitted toe ring. I was shocked how many people were waiting to get fitted! When I went home I was buying urls for investment and looked up toerings.com and it was available. I was not thinking of starting a company, but to purchase the name to re-sell at some point.
Mike: Has has owning the domain impacted your business?
Tracy: Well, it’s about the best domain name you can have for the business. Honestly, there were a few old-timers out there who had been in the business for years who called me and asked what my intentions were with the website. I think having the name shows the business is legit but a good site design helps as well. It doesn’t look like a click and build.
Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives? Any idea what percentage comes from people typing the domain name in (type-in) the url vs. searching?
Tracy: In the summer we get about 5500 hits per day and about 35% of those are direct hits.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?
Tracy: I have tried several of the PAY marketing strategies and found that they were overly expensive. I’ve recently done ads on Facebook at about $20 a day, but did not see many sales conversions coming from that. All my money has gone into SEO, making sure I get the top spot on Google search. Article linking and keywords that work are also important. I also keep all my customers on a Constant Contact database (we have about 12,000 email addresses at this point) and make sure my regular customers get emails re: special offers. For instance, we are positioning for an email to go out in the next week or so targeting holiday sales and gift certificates.
Mike: Did you have another domain for your site before this one?
Tracy: No but I have several other names that point to the site.
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Tracy: Domain names are very important. Always try and keep them short and get the .com if it’s available. Get several that are similar and point them to your site. When you tell your customers to go to your site, they will probably not remember a url that is several words put together. Try and be creative, but chose something that is spelled and pronounced easily. I recently bought toeringwholesalers.com to use as my wholesale site.
Mike: Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Tracey: If the price was right I would consider selling the domain and the business together as it’s a nice little package. Right now we have just finished a major update and overhaul to the site’s design and functionality and we are continually looking for ways to improve and increase business.
Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?
Tracy: People are usually very interested in knowing how to start an internet business. Start small and don’t expect miracles overnight. Have something unique to sell or offer. Learn from mistakes, because there will be mistakes. (I did a Google adwords campaign and it end up costing me $700 in one week!) Beware of overseas orders. Know what it takes to run a business all the time and have coverage when you go on vacation so there is no lapse in processing. Get good help from website developers – you pay for what you get.