Education, MBA

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MBA Update: Practicum in ECommerce

The second two classes in the digital marketing concentration of my MBA program were a Practicum in ECommerce and a class in Social Media and Mobile Marketing.

The Ecommerce class also covered affiliate marketing, so we didn’t need to source/create products to sell on our websites, which led to learning about the Amazon Affiliates program. The class lessons included making a website from scratch, which I hadn’t done in a few years and many classmates had never done, so it differed from other grad school classes with strictly writing assignments.

Course Description

The course provides a hands-on understanding of how to establish and run an online business. Note that this is not a technical course. The focus is on using the Web as a channel for marketing and sales, so a background in technology is not needed.

Course Goals

  1. Understand and effectively explain Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Build affiliate marketing websites
  3. Create and analyze the results of ad campaigns

Several of the Lessons

1. Overview of Affiliate Marketing and Keyword Research: Complete a niche template for 3 possible product categories, deciding on the most profitable/most likely to rank niche by doing keyword research. A niche means what types of products from Amazon we’re selling on our site. I choose nonfiction books from female leaders in business, and the keyword phrase “women in leadership” because it was the least competitive keyword, it was a semi-affordable keyword on AdWords, and it had attractive search metrics.

2. Building the Website: Register an appropriate domain name, purchase hosting, build a website using WordPress, choose a WordPress template, use WordPress Plugins, develop basic navigation for the site, include at least 3 product reviews (as blog posts) linking to the affiliate products, create two other pages such as an about page, and activate Google Analytics on your site. See my site.

3. SEO strategy: Create a plan for backlinks, including tier 1 sites that link directly to your website such as Tumblr and, then tier 2 sites such as and Pinterest that link back to the tier 1 sites.

4. Video SEO: Make a video review of one of your affiliate products, because Youtube can sometimes help your site rank #1 on Google overnight. Optimize the Youtube video for SEO and embed it into your product review on your website. The video can be a recording of your screen as you talk about the product, or it could be a “talking head“ video where you talk and show the product. You can use sites such as Fivr to pay a few dollars to get 1000+ views and likes on your video, helping boost its search ranking. See my videos.

5. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: Create a Google AdWords campaign, choose appropriate keywords, group keywords into AdGroups, and write effective ads for each AdGroup.

6. Analyzing Results: Use Google Analytics to determine what was effective, what was not, and what corrective actions (if any) would you take going forward. Here’s the short version of my analysis for this 6-week project:

I did not have much success ranking my site or videos. I searched for “women in leadership” in an incognito window and I don’t see my site or videos on first 10 pages of Google. I also did a video search and the videos I put on Youtube didn’t appear. Looking at Google Search Console, I see my site has 3 queries but no clicks. Some of the backlinks have now been indexed in Search Console, so that is promising.

The traffic to Amazon was 29 total clicks. I had zero commissions [note – no one in class had commissions].

The main lesson that sums up the smaller lessons learned throughout the course is that building SEO is hard work and takes time. It reinforces lessons I’ve read before but haven’t had good hands-on experience with, about how SEO is a long-term process that takes a lot of strategic work, though it was cool to see short-term hacks like the Youtube videos that can get ranked on the first page overnight. That was really neat. “Content is King” would be another lesson proven by this course – improving and increasing the content on the site to make people want to share it, link to it, talk about it would help achieve the site’s sales goals. It goes along with the main lesson, since good content takes time and hard work. I also learned first-hand that affiliate marketing needs either a lot of traffic and/or the right kind of traffic in order to get sales. Simply putting up a website is not going to create traffic or sales.

I started an online MBA at Montclair State University in January 2017.

Topics:   Education, MBA