“We do not invest in Google Adwords. And although Google is a private company that can change whatever they want about their search engine whenever they want to, they will probably always strive to help web users find relevant information.
“So rather than trying to ‘buy’ our way to the top of search engines by either paying for placement or trying to ‘trick’ Google into ranking us highly, we built a deep website with a tremendous amount of content. Google and web users value this content; and so the more unique information we put on our website the higher we rank.
“If you are familiar with our catalogs you know that we try to illustrate every book in color. If you are familiar with commercial printing then you know that full color printed catalogs are very expensive to produce.
“On the other hand, it costs virtually nothing to put color pictures of books on the Internet and it is very easy to do. Photographs of books bridge the physical distance between sellers and customers. Not only do they help convey the condition of the book, but I believe photographs of books reinforce the fundamental reason collectors buy antiquarian books. This reason is that collectors value books as physical objects.
“That is why we show a photo for every one of the approx. 100,000 books in our inventory. Furthermore, we have created live, three dimensional models of over a thousand books in our inventory. On the screen the visitor to our web site can view those books from any angle.
“In terms of budget, we spend less money on our web site than we usually spend for printing catalogs. But before we spent a penny on the web site, we had planned it all out and this, I believe, saved us quite a bit.
In Gregory’s opinion one of the greatest challenges facing booksellers is “selling books that the customer did not previously know he even wanted. This can be difficult, and we find printed catalogs are very good at this. But we try to accomplish this on our website by recommending books at every turn, particularly as part of our search results and when a customer is looking at a specific item.
“If a visitor is viewing the details about a particular title, on the edge of the screen we'll show them other books by the same author, or other books on the same subject. We don't want to distract them from buying the book they were searching for, but we also hope that on our site, as in a real bookstore, one book will lead to another and then another.
“Finally, it is vital to offer more than simply a search of one's inventory, particularly if the same books can be found just as easily at some third party website, where the customer will have even more options. You must give Internet buyers a reason to visit your site,” he says. Some of these reasons include: “illustrated bibliographic reference information, articles on rare books, even literary video games. We want people to have a positive experience. We want them to remember us and return; we want them to tell others.”
Just as he stresses the importance of content, he also cautions against giving away too much for free: “You should be dispensing just enough information online to convince potential customers that you are an expert and a professional. You should not be educating your competition.
“By competition I mean the owners of books who are not professional booksellers but think, because of the information they found online, that they can identify, catalog, and sell the book themselves and eliminate our trade. ABE empowers them; eBay empowers them; Amazon empowers them. Please do not empower them yourselves by giving out valuable bibliographic information unnecessarily.