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Archive for January, 2008

The Art of Profitability

I have to admit that when I first picked up The Art of Profitability I wasn’t expecting to be as good as it turned out to be. It was good. The only negative I can say is that I didn’t like the overly descriptive and colorful story telling, it was a little too much for me. But the content by far more than makes up for it.

This book is all about the different profit models, not on how to maximize your existing profit model. It CLEARLY explains the difference between the many different profit models. And not only does it explain but it also gives many examples of each profit model.

One aspect of the book I really appreciated was the effort the author went through to create “assignments” for the student Steve in the book. Having had already read several of the “assignments” beforehand (books the student had to read), I found they were very appropriate. And the ones I didn’t I’ll probably pick up.

Overall a good book which I recommend. Even if you’ve already defined your profit model for your business, you might be in for a surprise. If I rate this book on the revenues it will make for me compared to it’s cost and time to read, I’m way ahead.

Therefore I recommend the book The Art of Profitability.






LandlordMax Customer Video Review

LandlordMax Property Management Software Accounting Screenshot

As part of my monthly tasks, I look at our affiliate sales to see who’s selling what. As you would expect, the majority of affiliates don’t really generate any sales. To quote Andy Brice “From discussion on various forums it seems that very few products do well enough at affiliate sales to justify the effort involved. If you do decide to have an affiliate program make it as automated as possible”. However as part of running a business you still need keep track of your affiliates, especially those that do convert.

And to my surprise, as part of doing this monthly process, I found that someone had done a full review of LandlordMax. They wrote about two pages worth (a pretty in depth review). But what’s really exciting is that they also went through the trouble of creating a 20 minute video reviewing LandlordMax! A full 20 minutes.

Some of the highlights of the written part of the review include:

  • LandlordMax is a property rental management software that is up a level from Quicken. Not that Quicken isn’t a great product… it is… but LandlordMax has more features and is overall a more functional and robust system for people that want more than the basic features Quicken offers.
  • The price point of Landlord Max is $147. Compared to Quicken this is about $60 more… but as you’ll find in the video below… it may be well worth it (I’m actually switching over to LandlordMax).
  • Really… I have a tough time finding a ton of things I don’t like about the software. Maybe after I use it everyday for a couple months I may come up with a few features that bug me… or that I would like to see… but after going through it really in-depth today… I am extremely pleased with LandlordMax.
  • For me, this software is a good hybrid between a commercial rental property management software (ones for $500+ for property management companies) and Quicken (which is an excellent?simple software for people with less than 20 units).
  • You get the lower price of a consumer property management software… with most of the advanced features of a $500+ commercial property management software.

Overall the reviewer gave us a 4.5 out of 5! If you haven’t already clicked on one of the links to the review itself, you should go see the LandlordMax review now. It’s a great review. Thank you Trevor!






12 Search Engine Optimizations (SEO) You Should Always Do

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO Tip #1: Research the best keywords for your website

A very very common mistake when people first start looking at SEO is that they just choose the keywords they want to optimize their website for. What they think is the best keyword from intuition. I was guilty of it myself. The reality is that this is often not the best way to do it. Do some research. Use some of the tools available out there to find which keywords are the best for your particular website. These include tools like WordTracker, Wordze, etc.

One thing to note, it’s not always best to optimize for the most searched keywords. Sometimes it can be too generic. For example with my company LandlordMax, the keyword “real estate” is too generic to be of any real use. But in addition to this it might also not be targeted enough. Again, back to my previous example, “real estate” can mean so many things to so many people (real estate listings have nothing to do with real estate software) that maybe only a small percentage of the search results are looking for our software. Therefore we’ve opted for different, more targeted keywords.

SEO Tip #1: Insert your keyword in your title tag:

You should use a different titles for your meta title tags on each page of your website. For example if you’re website is about “Landlord Software”, then you can have your main page be something like:

<title>LandlordMax the best landlord software in the market today</title>

and your support page could be:

<title>LandlordMax Discussion Forum: Talk about your landlord software</title>

Obviously the above examples are pretty weak, I came up with it in a few seconds. But the idea is that you should try to be creative and include your keyword when it makes sense. Don’t go overboard and stuff it in everywhere, Google will notice and most likely reduce your search ranking. Just do it where it makes sense.

SEO Tip #2: Optimize your meta tags

In the past everyone who had any SEO knowledge would right away mention the importance of the meta tags, the description, keywords, etc. Of course people quickly gamed the system and the resulting importance of the meta tags also quickly reduced. However don’t think they have no value. Although not as much as before, they are valuable. Especially if you don’t stuff them with tons of keywords. From my personal experience, the less keywords you use here the more authority Google seems to give you.

SEO Tip #3: Use Headers to emphasize your keywords

How does Google figure out what your web page is all about? It parses it looking for clues. An obvious clue is looking at the section titles. Just like chapters in a book, they often highlight what the chapters are about. So take advantage of this. Use Header tags (<H1>, <H2>, etc.) to your advantage to separate out sections when it makes sense. And even better, use your keyword in the section title. Again don’t overdo it, but if it makes sense don’t be shy.

SEO Tip #4: Add alt text to all your images

This is probably the most missed SEO tip I can offer. Many many many websites have images but no alternative text for the images. Google can’t parse your images, at least not today. The best it can do is look at your alternative text for clues. So add alternative text. Put a comment stating what the image is about. And if you’re lucky you might also be able to sometimes include your keyword.

SEO Tip #5: Use your keywords in your content.

The most obvious isn’t always the most obvious. Use your keyword in your content. If you don’t use it how are the search engines suppose to know you’re about that keyword. If you’re about “car engines”, use the words “car engines” a few times. If you’re about “landlord software”, then use “landlord software”. It’s as simple as that. Use your keywords. Of course, like all other tips, use them within reason.

Google has metrics to determine what is an appropriate keyword ratio on a given web page. If it’s within reason they will accept it. If it’s completely out of the norm they’ll know and likely penalize you for it, assuming you’re trying to game the system. For example if you use “landlord software” every other word (a 50% ratio), it’s obvious you’re keyword stuffing.

SEO Tip #6: Use your keywords in your links

Google also uses the anchor text of a link to determine what a website is about. The idea is that if a lot of websites are linking to yours with similar anchor text, then most likely that’s what you’re about. For those of you who don’t know, anchor text is the underlined text (the links) pointing to your webpage.

The trick here is that Google doesn’t only look at links from other websites pointing to yours, it also looks at your internal linking structure. Odds are that if you want people to click on your links you’ll use relevant words. For example if you have a support page, odds are that you’ll use the word “support” in your anchor text. So whenever possible, use your keywords. Again, use within your keywords within reason.

SEO Tip #7: Highlight your keywords when appropriate

It’s a known fact that most website visitors scan text. They look for bold text. Italicized text. Basically whatever text that stands out. Google’s also figured this out and will give more weight to your text that’s highlighted in some way, such as bolded text. So above using these techniques to make your text scannable, use it to your advantage for SEO purposes when appropriate. If you have scannable text, check to see if it makes sense to add your keywords too.

SEO Tip #8: Don’t overuse your keywords

After having suggested to you to include your keywords several times, I’m now suggestion you show some restraint. Too many people have tried to stuff their webpages with their keywords for SEO purposes. Google is aware of this. Therefore to compensate they look at what is a normal keyword ratio for the size of your content. If you’re within their constraints they will accept your site as authentic. If you’re overloaded with keywords then they will assume you’re trying to game the system and penalize your search ranking.

So what’s a good keyword ratio? It depends. I’ve heard reports of Google analyzing your competitors and that if you’re within their ratios it’s a good thing. But then again I’ve also heard reports of people stuffing their websites with overly high ratios and getting away with it. The question though is for how long. Realistically, as a rule of thumb, when it’s appropriate add your keywords.

What’s appropriate? If you’re finding yourself having to force the text to fit your keyword then it’s probably not appropriate. Also read your content. Is it readable? If it’s getting garbagy then you probably have a problem. Remember you always have two audiences. The search engines and your visitors. You have to keep the attention of your visitors as well as Google. If you’re site is completely keyword stuffed, unreadable, etc., then it won’t matter if you reach the first search position. There’s a balance you have to achieve.

SEO Tip #9: Avoid dynamic content if it’s possible

Many sites try to use dynamic content to enhance their appeal. That’s great and all, but sometimes going back to basics can be a good thing. For example, on LandlordMax we have a screenshots webpage. We could have used JavaScript to dynamically have the images appear as popups. However if we did that Google wouldn’t know we had these pictures. By instead having them as separate pages we’ve increased our website’s size according to Google. Not only that, but we’re then also able to use the alternative text of every images to our advantage.

SEO Tip #10: Use your keywords in your filenames

Why just use your keywords in your webpages? Why not the file names themselves? Google also looks at the filenames to see what your webpages are about. It makes perfect sense. So use this to your advantage. Instead of blahblah/page1.html, do something like blahblah/how-to-optimize-my-webpage.html

SEO Tip #11: Every page should be reachable within 2 links

Unless you’re one of top sites on the internet, and there aren’t that many, Google will only look at your site within a limited depth. A good rule of thumb is to keep all your content withing 1-2 links of your main page. In other words, you should be able to reach any page you want Google to index within 1-2 links from your main page. Anything beyond that is not likely to be indexed.

SEO Tip #12: Research your competitors

Look at what your competition is doing. But more importantly, figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing. Why are they targeting a certain keyword? Why are they using a certain SEO technique? Why are they ranking at the top? Why why why? Once you know, use this knowledge to your advantage. Improve your own website.

Extra SEO Tip: Try to get external links with your keyword in the anchor text

All of the tips here were on-site SEO tips. That is to say they’re tips on how to improve your website from within, things you can directly control. However on-site SEO isn’t the only thing you do to increase your search engine rankings. Google has realized that the more people link to you with a specific anchor text, the more likely it’s what you’re about. So for example if only one website links to me with “landlord software” in the anchor text, then it’s probably not about “landlord software” (even if the website is loaded with the keyword “landlord software”). It’s probably just trying to game the system.

This tactic is so powerful that there are even terms for gaming the system with anchor text, the most common of which I’ve heard is the Google Bomb. This is also what really fired up the reciprocal linking craze! To give you an example of just how powerful anchor text on links can be, some people set out to Google Bomb George Bush with the keyword “Miserable Failure”. There was a time when you would search for “Miserable Failure” and the top search result was George Bush.

Therefore getting lots of links for your keyword from authority sites (ie. sites that aren’t spammy or fly by night, but rather sites that Google truly values) will significantly increase your search ranking!

Recommended Reading

If you haven’t already done so,  I also suggest you purchase a copy of Aaron Wall’s SEO Book. It’s a great SEO resource, loaded with information. When I was initially starting to learn about the SEO world, this book really helped me. It’s the best all one source to start learning SEO.






What's the Secret? How Do You Have Time To Do All That?

 

Time Management

A very common, and I mean very common question I get is where do I find all the time to do everything I do. How am I able to run my company LandlordMax, write for this blog, write a book, and so on. Honestly I have just as much time as everyone else, I just choose to prioritize my time differently. I’m a big fan of Paul Graham’s, especially the following quote from his article How to Start a Startup which I use very often when talking to people:

“My final test may be the most restrictive. Do you actually want to start a startup? What it amounts to, economically, is compressing your working life into the smallest possible space. Instead of working at an ordinary rate for 40 years, you work like hell for four. And maybe end up with nothing– though in that case it probably won’t take four years.”

So what’s my secret to be able to do all the things I do in a normal day? It’s simple. Prioritization. What does that mean? I decide to use my time right now differently than most people.

Let’s take an example. Let’s assume you’re a sports fan and you want to watch every game of your favorite team. Or maybe you watch a daily TV soap opera. Maybe you just watch an hour of TV every day. Whatever the case the numbers are about the same so let’s use the sports example since it’s the easiest to calculate.

For our example let’s say you watch hockey. Your favorite team will play at least 80 games a year for about 3 hours each game. It’s probably a little less, but we didn’t include all the games or the playoffs (and the season is a little more than 80 games anyways). If we do the math we get:

  • 80 games * 3 hours = 240 hours

Breaking it down further:

  • 240 hours / 8 hours a day = 30 days

Breaking that even further:

  • 30 days / 5 days a week = 6 full time weeks (or 1.5 months full time).

By just eliminating one activity I’ve added one and a half months of full-time time. Wow! What can you do in one and a half months full-time? I suspect a lot!

Do you have to completely eliminate this activity? No. Almost anything you take to that extreme will generally not work. You’ll probably experience some binging if you do that. Rather I recommend you do it in moderation. I still watch the occasional game. Maybe once a month. But by only watching the occasional game, I’m still at least a full-time month ahead of many of my peers who watch all the games (or tv every night, etc.). And I can tell you there are many, I personally know of over a dozen people who watch at least 2-3 sports games a week. That adds up, and it adds up quickly. Quicker than you think.

So the next time you decide to sit down and watch TV you should conscientiously decide that it’s what you want to do. Don’t just plop down on your couch because it’s the easiest thing to do, conscientiously decide that it’s what you want to do. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as you actively decided it’s the best use of your time. We all need down time after all. But if you continue to consistently choose the easiest path, then please don’t ask me how I manage to find all this time to do the things I do. You can to, there’s no secret. You just need to choose to.






Quick Links

CPC Ads Earn 50x More Than CPA
A very interesting article on one companies experience testing Google CPA (Cost Per Action) compared to CPC (Cost Per Click). What stands out is that Google is going to a much much harder time figuring out which are fraudulent actions. They just don’t have access to enough data like CPC’s.

11 Tips for Getting Your Comments Noticed on a Popular Blog
Darren always has good tips and this is another one of them. Here he gives some great advice on how to increase the odds that your comments on other blogs get noticed.

101 Ways To Know Your Software Project Is Doomed
Almost funny except that it’s all too real.

A Lesson in Control Simplicity
What is progress? Sometimes adding too many new features might actually be a bad thing.

Want to Succeed? Then Get Off Your Ass and Work
Part of Jeremy’s success is his ability to be honest, sometimes even brutally honest. And in this case he clearly states the secret to his success.

Warning: Software Startups are Not as Easy as Everyone Says
These days it seems we keep seeing headlines about all kinds of people who just started a software company in their basement and have suddenly become overnight successes. The truth is not that simple. Of course that doesn’t make for an as interesting story.

The Zero-Testing Time Bomb
Never ever skip the testing phase of your software development lifecycle, you’ll regret it. No matter how tempting, don’t. It’s as simple as that.

Blogging Success is About The Long Haul
Too many blogs start and die every day. Blogging takes a while to get going. I can tell you having interviewed many high profile bloggers for my book, very few achieve success overnight. It takes time and effort.

Help me Roberto, my web server just got hacked!
A good guide to help you prepare for if your server ever gets hacked.






Blogging Book Interview Update

Book

As many of you already know I’m in the process of compiling a book of interviews with many of the most prominent bloggers. The idea of the book is to ask every blogger I interviewed similar questions to find out what’s common, what’s different, what works, basically what it takes to be a successful blogger.

At this stage I’ve completed all the interviews and I can tell you that the answers are amazing. I’ve been successfully blogging myself for over two years now and I still learned a lot! Thank you everyone for taking the time to participate in this project and giving such great responses and advice.

The book will be sent off for editing by the end of this month.

I also initially posted a list of bloggers who had agreed to participate. This list has changed somewhat since then. A few people weren’t able to complete their interviews for different reasons, which is expected when you interview so many outstanding people. I was very honored they accepted in the first place, but I can also appreciate their busy schedules. Therefore you’ll find a few new names on the list which is very thrilling.I’m very happy and proud to announce the official list of bloggers who will be part of the book (in alphabetical order of their first names):

Quite an exciting list! Several people listed here have over a million unique visitors per month on their blogs! Most have hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month. All are of course very successful bloggers!

As soon as the book comes back from editing, I’ll post an update and let you all know when it will be available to buy from Amazon. I’m sure you’re as excited as me to see it in print!






Why do Some Projects Continue to Push Unrealistic Software Development Schedules?

Why do Some Projects Continue to Push Unrealistic Software Development Schedules?

To quote one of my favorite software development books Rapid Development:

Some people seem to think that software projects should be scheduled optimistically because software development should be more an adventure than a dreary engineering exercise. These people say that schedule pressure adds excitement.

How much sense does that make? If you were going on a real adventure, say a trip to the south pole by dogsled, would you let someone talk you into planning for it to take only 30 days when your best estimate was that it would take 60? Would you carry only 30 days’ worth of food? Only 30 days’ worth of fuel? Would you plan for your sled dogs to be worn out at the end of 30 days rather than 60? Doing any of those things would be self-destructive, and underscoping and underplanning a software project is similarly self-destructive, albeit usually without any life-treatening consequences.

This analogy is all too accurate. You cannot wish for certain things to happen. Unfortunately reality is what it is.

One little tidbit that did catch my attention however, which I’m sure many people easily overlooked, is that if you really push a schedule beyonds reality is that you might not be able to re-adjust it later. For example if you push everyone to the extreme for 30 days they might not have any energy left at the end for another 30 days, or even more as is often the case. They will be “worn out”!

It’s virtually the same as asking someone to run a 100 meter sprint and then continually moving back the finish line as they’re just about done. It might work for a 200 meters, if you’re lucky maybe even 400 meters… But once you reach a certain threshold it will have very significant negative impacts. There’s a reason why people who run the 400 meters don’t sprint the 400 meters.

Ever try to sprint a mile? What about a marathon?






Why Coupon Codes are Bad on Websites

Have you ever gone to a website to buy something and noticed a “coupon code” field on the purchase/checkout page?

This week I purchased a few domains from GoDaddy.com for my company LandlordMax and as I was proceeded through the checkout process I was presented with a “Coupon Code” field. Being familiar with this my first instinct was that I needed to find a coupon code online. If the field exists there must be an available coupon code.

GoDaddy.com Coupon Code

So I went straight to search on Google for GoDaddy.com coupon codes without completing my purchase. Remember at this point I’d already decided to purchase the domains from GoDaddy, all I’m trying to do now is pay less. Why shouldn’t I? Everything in the checkout process is telling me that I can get this very same product/service for less.

Within seconds I find several GoDaddy discount coupon codes online. So I start trying them. The first one fails. Ok, let’s try this next one. Nothing. Invalid. Another. Nope. And so it goes on for a few more minutes. I’m now starting to get frustrated. I’ve already tried a dozen coupon codes that don’t work, so there’s definitely a lot of them out there. I’ve got to be getting close to finding the “good one”. So I continue looking.

I know that if I keep looking I’ll eventually find a valid coupon code and save myself some money. But I’m also tired of doing this and I’m starting to get a little frustrated. Why couldn’t they just not have hid this from me. Had I not known I wouldn’t be writing about this today!

At this point I don’t really feel like looking for a coupon code anymore. I’m also very busy and I have other important things to do. So I go ahead and make the purchase, without a coupon code. I however feel that I’m paying too much. Whether or not this is true, it doesn’t matter. I believe there is a coupon code that I’m not aware of and that’s all that really matters to me. Unfortunately perception becomes reality and so I feel jaded on the price.

Where does this all leave us? Not in the best place. Depending on the product the customer might move on to another company because too much goodwill has been loss trying to find a coupon code. They might have purchased the product and are unhappy to have paid too much. Or possibly they did find the coupon code and as a business you’re losing a large profit margin. In the best case the customer saved some extra money they hadn’t anticipated to and in the worse case the customer has moved on to another company.

What’s the alternative? Don’t show a coupon code! It’s that simple. If I don’t know about the discount than I don’t feel bad. I won’t look for it. I won’t care. I won’t be disappointed.

If you want to use coupons why not instead just make it part of the URL (the webpage address). Do something like http://www.GoDaddy.com/?couponCode=2342 If I don’t happen to come across the direct link I won’t know about the discount. And best of all, everyone who doesn’t come across the link, which I would bet is the majority of purchasers, won’t know. I won’t get frustrated trying to find a coupon code that might not exist. I’ll just pay and be on my merry way.

It’s much like going to a grocery store. I pay for my food. The customer behind me might have coupons, which is great for them, but it doesn’t affect me. The cashier didn’t just tell me that there is possibly a 30% off coupon available somewhere nearby in the store (along with a bunch of expired coupons) and that I should go look for it right now. Meaning they’ve now informed me that I’m paying more than I should which doesn’t make me happy. Although I’m aware that there are potentially coupons out there, as long as they’re not in my face I’m happy. I’m blissfully ignorant. Sometimes this can be the best thing!

** Update: For those of you who are curious, at my company LandlordMax we don’t offer any coupons or discounts on the software we sell. Therefore you don’t need to search Google for discounts, they don’t exist. We’ve made it really simple, everyone pays the same price.






LandlordMax Customer Testimonial

As all you long time readers know, I really love to share some of the best customer testimonial we get for LandlordMax Property Management Software. Today’s comes from KK Chan:

“Your support and response time on this matter has been awesome. Am glad I bought your software.”

– KK Chan

Thank you. It’s great to receive such positive feedback as yours!






HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray: From the Consumer's Perspective

Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD

As an HD (High Definition) consumer here’s what I want from my HD player:

1. I want it to play ALL available movies. Exclusivity is the opposite of what I want. I want one player for all movies. I don’t want to have to take sides. I don’t want to buy multiple players (an HD-DVD and a Blu-Ray player). I just one one player for all my movies.

2. I want it to be affordable. HD-DVD is now very affordable, at about $250 for a basic player (I’m willing to pay some premium to be an earlier adopter but not Blu-Ray’s current premium). Blu-Ray isn’t affordable, about $1200 for the latest version. I’m ignoring the PS3 option because I don’t really want the PS3 gaming system, I just want an HD player.

3. I want to be able to rent movies from the local video rental store. I don’t want to have to buy all my movies. Where I live there are really only two major chains. Blockbuster and Rogers. Of course Blockbuster has signed an exclusive agreement with Blu-Ray. Rogers on the other hand has a 66% Blu-Ray and 33% HD-DVD selection. that means that if I want to rent a movie the odds are that I have to rent a Blu-Ray movie (and hence buy the very expensive player). And I can only rent movies from certain stores depending on which player and movie I want. The opposite of what I want again!

4. I would really like to be able to play my new HD movies on a regular DVD player For example it would be great if I can play my HD movies on my portable DVD player in the car. Only HD-DVD offers this with their combo releases.

Am I asking for too much? I don’t think so. So what’s happening? The reality is that the two formats are fighting each other instead of working together. This means that people like myself who desperately want to view movies in HD aren’t willing to spend money on an HD player because we don’t want to make the mistake of spending our hard earned cash on something that might be gone tomorrow. We don’t want to buy today’s Beta.

There are dual players coming out soon, and hopefully that will alleviate the issue. But at the end of the day I just want an affordable a movie player to play any HD movie I rent at my local video rental store.

It’s too bad these companies aren’t listening to their customers (a big mistake!), otherwise I’m absolutely convinced that they’d both have already made significantly more revenue. The adoption of HD players would be much much higher. I know I’d be buying an HD player today!






 
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Disclaimer: This is a personal blog about my thoughts, experiences and ideas. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only. No content should be construed as financial, business, personal, or any other type of advice. Commenters, advertisers and linked sites are entirely responsible for their own content and do not represent the views of myself. All decisions involve risks and results are not guaranteed. Always do your own research, due diligence, and consult your own professional advisors before making any decision. This blog (including myself) assumes no liability with regard to results based on use of information from this blog. If this blog contains any errors, misrepresentations, or omissions, please contact me or leave a comment to have the content corrected.