Update - this project was mothballed before it could get anywhere. Skip it if you need a happy ending.


Britain's Smallest Shop - A Brief History

One of my experiments in making money online was setting up an online shop on Shopify. I made the classic Girardin mistake of trying to be funny instead of successful.

I decided it would be hilarious to create a shop that only sold one product. I called it 'Britain's Smallest Shop' and paid for a cool logo and got to work setting up the store.

 
Isn't it beautiful?

Isn't it beautiful?

 

I sank many hours into it before I realised it was impossible to make money with a joke 'strategy'. (Making a functional online shop got me some web design customers, so it wasn't a total loss.)

Having canceled the Shopify account, I switched it all over to Wordpress, running the Extra theme from Divi. It looked great, but needed some articles. What to write? What articles would be a good fit for Britain's Smallest Shop? Easy:

  • anything to do with Britain
  • anything to do with shops

Luckily, I have a piece of software called Long Tail Pro that lets me see how often keywords are typed into Google and how hard it would be to get to the top of Google for those phrases.

Using Long Tail Pro to Find Low Competition Keywords

LTP spat out hundreds of keywords and told me how much competition there would be for each. Here's an example - 'shop assistant CV' is typed into Google.co.uk 320 times a month and the competition rating is estimated at 15 - that's really low. Should be a piece of piss getting to the top of Google.

I chose the very easiest keywords regardless of whether they were a good fit with the 'smallest shop' theme or not.

These were the keywords I turned into articles:

  • how to write a shop assistant CV
  • gift letter for mortgage template
  • what is the ideal gift for a 65 year old man
  • find a gift for a 60 year old man
  • Britains toy soldiers

I thought about what someone typing those phrases into Google would want to read, wrote that, and added cool photos and videos and everything.

Results

The articles been online for 4 months or so - time enough to settle into their natural ranking in Google. I can tell you that the number of monthly visitors for the site as a whole is uncomfortably close to zero. Let's see how each article is doing.

How to write a shop assistant CV

I'm near the bottom of page 2.

 
 

Not too bad! I'm ahead of a website called 'CV advice' which would seem to be more relevant than my shop - though my article is about shop assistants and theirs is about pet shop assistants. The fools!

See the text that comes after '14 Feb 2016'? That's called the meta description. More on that later.

Gift letter for mortgage template

I don't rank anywhere for this, which annoys me no end, because I put quite some time into the article. I had to find out what the F it meant, and I got a weird compulsion to produce an article that was better than all the ones I looked at. My article is probably the best of its kind in the whole country!

But all the results in Google are from financial websites - I think Google knows that the need is best met by those sites. Sigh. FINE whatever.

what is the ideal gift for a 65 year old man

Whoo! Bottom of page 2!

 
 

That is quite acceptable.

Find a Gift for a 60 Year Old Man

Top of page 3.

Okay we're onto something here! I wonder if this kind of 'best gift' content could be an actually productive use for the site?

Britains toy soldiers

There isn't an apostrophe missing - this search is about a company known as Britains that makes toy soldiers. I know because I'm a frikkin expert in it after all the research I did for that article. Just checking to see if I'm in the rankings now... Ugh! Trip Advisor is on page 3. How can I be below frikkin Trip Advisor on the subject of TOY SOLDIERS?! Right, I just found myself on page 6. Lame.

All in all, a pretty shitty set of results.
— Andrew Girardin

Takeaways

1. Either those keywords weren't as easy as Long Tail Pro suggested, or I did something wrong, or my site just doesn't have enough links to get to the top of Google for ANYTHING. That's a bit of a downer. If it's hard to rank for the easiest searches possible...

2. The 'best gift for' looks like something worth pursuing. I might add a few articles on those topics. Gifts for men of all ages, women of all ages. Turn the site into a 'gift ideas' hub.

3. I noticed that my meta descriptions (the blurb you see on a Google search result) are just random text taken from the article body. Take a look:

I did write a custom description for each post, but Google chose not to show it. Or I hadn't set up the Extra theme properly. Maybe there was a setting I should have tweaked.

Anyway, after realising what was happening I installed the Yoast SEO plugin because I knew that would let me directly set the meta description.

That should start showing on Google in a day or two.

Why is it important? Well, which one are you more likely to click on? The one with random out-of-context gibberish, or my sculpted click-baity masterpiece?

Next Steps

All right, this turned out to be a useful exercise! Once my meta descriptions go live on Google, I might start seeing better results!

Let's check back in a month or two. In the meantime I might add a couple of 'best gift for age X' articles.


Update: One Year Later

So this never really went anywhere, I'm sad to say. After messing about with it a bit more I just left it to settle into its place in the rankings. Those rankings were never great, and at the point in the project when I would have pivoted or doubled the number of articles or whatever, I was knee-deep in real projects making real money. So I never found the time to pursue this stuff.