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Archive for March, 2008

Why Are There So Many Dead Blogs

Cemetary

It’s amazing how many dead blogs there are out there, blogs where the authors wrote for around two to three months before they called it quits. Well maybe it’s not so amazing. Blogging is very easy to start, it has almost not barrier to entry. However the path to successful blogging is very hard; it takes time, it takes energy, in other words it takes a lot of effort.

To give my favorite analogy, it’s like going to the gym. Ever notice how packed gyms are in January? All these people are trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolution of getting in shape. They all start with the best intentions. They go to the gym at least several times a week and each time they exercise like there’s no tomorrow. They’re on a mission, a mission to get fit. The race is on and their running at full throttle.

Fast forward two to three months and most of these same people are barely going to the gym once a month, if at all. What happened? The good intentions are still there, but once the excitement of starting something new has faded and it’s transitioned into work, well you know the outcome. What should have been a marathon from the start ended being a sprint to nowhere.

The same is true with blogs. Lots of people have started blogs. They get all excited and post almost every day when they first start. It’s excited. It’s all new. They start to get a little bit of traffic. Sure it’s mostly friends and family, but after a few weeks or some friends of friends start looking at their blog. Maybe even a little word of mouth if they’re lucky.

Then a few weeks pass. They start to realize that the blog isn’t going to magically grow. It will take a lot of time and effort, especially to write posts on a consistent basis. Even once a week starts to become a burden. The excitement has worn off and the traffic hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds. It’s growing, but not as expected.

Plus other life events start to take precedence. Instead of blogging tonight they find themselves watching the latest sports game, the latest episode of The Office or Heroes. Then last weekend they just had to attend that barbecue at Bob’s, he always throws the best barbecue, and boy can he barbecue those steaks! And then there’s this great new movie at the cinema that just couldn’t be missed, everyone’s talking about it. And more importantly, the daily grind, you know that thing called work, it’s tiring. There’s nothing wrong with taking a night off, but suddenly that night off has become a week off, then a month off, then it’s pretty much a permanent vacation.

This is why we see the internet littered with blogs that have about two to three months of content. That’s about as long as it takes for people’s excitement to wear off and fade to nothingness. It’s the same psychological principle that happens at the gym. Ever wonder why they push so hard for yearly memberships rather than monthly memberships? It’s the same issue with starting a business. It’s amazing how many times I hear people who stalled somewhere in the middle of writing a business plan. Well ok, maybe it’s not so amazing.

Implementation, execution, and especially perseverance are the keys to success. Blogging takes a lot of hard work and effort. It takes an enormous amount of persistence and patience. Don’t expect to succeed in a month, or even half a year. Exceptionally few do. Expect it will take you two to three years of consistent posting to really get going. To quote Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, “Can you write something of high quality on a daily basis on your chosen topic for the next 3 years? That’s 780 posts if you post each weekday for the next 3 years – 1560 if you post twice each weekday…”.

It’s not easy but it can be done. Decide on a posting schedule and keep at it. I really hate seeing great new blogs with lots of potential fall to the abyss.






Do You Still Read Your Blog's Filtered Spam Comments?

Everyone who’s been blogging for a while that uses WordPress has heard of Akismet. It’s an amazing WordPress plugin that most of us can’t live without. Actually if it wasn’t for Akismet I suspect I would have turned off commenting on this blog long ago!

For those of your who aren’t familiar with Akismet, it’s a WordPress plugin that will filter comments posted on your blog, much like spam filters work for email. Although it might might not appear as though most blogs gets “comment spam”, the numbers are incredible. Each day I get anywhere between hundreds to thousands of spam comments that Akismet filters behind the scenes so that you don’t have to see them. If I was to do this manually it would take me anywhere from an hour to several hours each day.

What I’ve noticed though is that over the last year I’ve stopped manually going through the comments Akismet has flagged as spam comments. I just automatically delete every comment Akismet flags as spam. And that’s for a few really good reasons:

  • I’ve found Akismet to be highly effective at figuring out which comments are spam and which ones aren’t.
  • I don’t have several hours to filter out comment spam on my blog each day.
  • Losing the odd comment is not as critical as it is for my corporate website. I hate it, but the cost-to-benefit equation highly favors the odd lost comment.

What do you do? Take the poll:

{democracy:6}






How to Generate Traffic to Your Website – Free EBook Sample

Yesterday I released a sample (the first 21 pages) of the EBook I’m selling “How to Generate Traffic for Your Website“. In it you’ll find the complete and detailed Table of Contents, as well as the beginning of the first chapter (SEO – Search Engine Optimization).

Like I keep saying over and over here on this blog, you need to try different things to see what works. If you don’t try you won’t ever know. For LandlordMax we offer a free 30-day trial, so why not with an EBook? Except instead of a time based trial, you get the beginning of the book. In this case you can read the first 21 pages before you decide on buying it.

Something else to mention, I’ve had some people approach me expecting the book to be an advanced book about online traffic generation. This book is targeted for people who have just started to those that have an intermediate level of skill and knowledge on traffic generation. It will give you a really solid foundation on which to build. To quote Bob Walsh from 47Hats.com:

“As someone who knows a fair bit about these topics, I found Steph’s down to earth – here’s-what-you-want-to-do-and-why – presentation very complete. His chapters on SEO, AdWords and press releases were some of the best material from a microISV’s point of view I’ve seen to date. Steph pulls from both the experience of his microISV – LandlordMax – and other sources to illustrate and illuminate his points.”

If you haven’t already checked it out, you can read the first 21 pages of the ebook here. And if you’ve already read the sample and want to get the rest, you can buy it here.






Your Website's Response Time Will Affect Your Google AdWords Campaigns

Everybody understands that it’s important to monitor a website for uptime, after all if your website is down you’re down. But it’s not as simple as that. You also need to monitor your server’s response times. That is the time it takes from the time you request a webpage to the time loads in your web browser. The longer the response time the worse the user experience. No one wants to wait for a page to load anymore, we’re no longer living in the dial-up modem era.

And for those of you who use Google AdWords, you’ll really want to pay careful attention to your website’s response times. Google has recently indicated that a website’s response time will be incorporated into the Quality Score. And any affects in the Quality Score will therefore affect the eligibility and minimum prices for your ads!

The key to monitoring a website’s response time is to get an average from multiple sources on a continual basis. You need to take the average response time throughout the day to compensate for when your server is handling more requests, and thereby responding slower. You also need to measure the response times from different sources because some paths on the net may get bogged down for reasons unrelated to your web server’s performance.

So how do you this cost effectively? I recommend using a website monitoring service. For my company LandlordMax we use Pingdom, and we’re extremely happy with them. What initially attracted us to their service was Pingdom’s blog, which I recommend reading if you have a chance. There’s lots of great material in there.

In any case a good average response time should be well under 500 ms per request. You can find our uptime and response times graphs for LandlordMax below:

LandlordMax website uptime graphs

 

As you can see there are always some issues. In the first graph, the uptime graph, our website was down for a total of 5 minutes for the month of March. Although we want 100% uptime, it rarely happens, not without excessive costs. To be honest, until you really monitor your website you probably won’t realize the real uptime. A lot of people are surprised when they see these graphs! They never really thought that their websites were ever down. But if you think about it, OS patches often cause a 5 minute outage. Even with load balancers you can go down for a bit as you tweak the load balancers themselves.

Another great benefit with these types of service is that they will contact you when your website does go down. They’ll contact you, depending on your preferences, by email, by text message, and so on. For us we’ve got it checking our server every 5 minutes, so I personally know within 5 minutes by text message when our server goes down. It’s great peace of mind!

But going back to our discussion about response times, on average our (LandlordMax‘s) response times are about 200 ms. That’s great! We’re very happy with this. We had a couple of glitches were the response times exploded to 1 second, but overall it’s a very good looking graph. And even 1 second is better than many many websites out there.

On Pingdom’s blog, they’re kind enough to provide some graphs to show the dramatic differences in response times some websites have experienced. The following shows a very significant difference in response time starting at 4pm. Based on the blog’s comment, the difference in response time is because they switched hosting services.

Pingdom response time graph for flickr

And here’s another graph from Pingdom which shows what a dramatic difference optimizing your webpage code can have on your response times:

Pingdom response time graph with html optimization

Obviously there’s a lot you can do to optimize your website’s response times. It’s worth monitoring, especially if you use Google AdWords!






Give Your Customers the Best Experience Possible

Guitar Hero 3 Versus Rock Band

Recently I purchased both Rock Band and Guitar Hero 3 for my PlayStation3 and was quite surprised that I couldn’t use my guitar from one game to play with the other. For those of you who don’t know what either of these two games are, they’re the latest video games that came out during the last Xmas season which let you play music instruments on your game consoles. It’s almost like karaoke for instruments.

What’s even worse than the guitars not being interchangeable is that the makers Rock Band released a patch to resolve this issue that was approved by Sony (the game console maker) but was blocked by the markers of Guitar Hero 3. That’s extremely frustrating. I can understand their perspective, the guitar from Guitar Hero 3 “feels” better than the guitar from Rock Band, but why not let us use it to play Rock Band (or vice versa)? The word of mouth marketing (for example comments like my last sentence) are worth gold.

But the real reason I want support for both guitars is not to interchange them. That’s not the big issue, at least not enough to write a blog post about. The issue is that I want to be able to play both games in multi-guitar mode. That is with two guitars at the same time on the same console, on both Rock Band and Guitar Hero 3.

The thing to acknowledge is that these games are social games, that is games best played with friends and family. When people come over I want to play either Guitar Hero 3 or Rock Band with both guitars at the same time. I don’t want to have to buy a second guitar to complete my Rock Band and a second guitar to play the multiplayer Guitar Hero 3 games. That’s a total of 4 guitars when I should only need two to give me the best experience possible for both games!

Which brings us back to the true motivation of blocking the already available patch that would solve this issue. It’s not the reason most people initially suspect, it’s because the makers of Guitar Hero 3 want to sell you a second guitar. They basically make a larger margin per game if they can sell you a second guitar. And indeed you can buy a second guitar for Guitar Hero 3 without the game.

But will I buy a second guitar? Will I fork over $60 (times two if I also want to get one for Rock Band) just so I can play with other people when they come over? Right now whenever someone comes to visit we just swap the guitar, that and I’ve learned to play with the joystick to give my guests a chance to play with the guitar. It’s actually at the point where I can play Guitar Hero 3 on the Hard level competitively with the joystick! With Rock Band we just never play with a full band.

How frustrating is it? Very! It’s frustrating enough that I wrote a blog entry about it. Will I buy a second guitar? I highly doubt it. I just don’t have people over enough that will play these games to make it worth the additional costs. Especially not when it’s not a technical reason, it’s just to sell more add-on units at the cost of diminishing the users experience.

I can also tell you that people who bought one and were on the fence for the other aren’t as excited. One of the reasons to get the other is so you can get a second guitar to play socially without the additional cost (this is advantageous for both game makers). The guitars should be interchangeable. They have the same buttons, the same everything.

To the makers of Guitar Hero 3, please stop blocking this patch and let us all play both games with both guitars. It will make both games that much more enjoyable. And most importantly, it will make us all want to buy the next version that much more! Give us the best experience possible with your product, especially when it comes at no additional cost to you.






How to Generate Traffic to Your Website – Bob Walsh Review

Bob Walsh recently gave a very positive review of my latest EBook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website on his blog 47Hats.com. To quote his blog post title “An Excellent Ebook for MicroISVs

The following is an exert from his review:

“As someone who knows a fair bit about these topics, I found Steph’s down to earth – here’s-what-you-want-to-do-and-why – presentation very complete. His chapters on SEO, AdWords and press releases were some of the best material from a microISV’s point of view I’ve seen to date. Steph pulls from both the experience of his microISV – LandlordMax – and other sources to illustrate and illuminate his points.

The SEO chapter in particular is must reading for any microISV because it focuses on techniques that work today – not 5 years ago – and because it gives you for the time invested a solid set of strategies to start acting on now. MicroISVs seldom have the luxury to dive to the bottom of any of the many subjects we have to deal with.”

You can read Bob’s full review here. Thank you Bob for the great review!






Ignorance is Bliss

House of Cards

There’s been a lot of panic recently associated to the collapse of Bear Stearn, one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Yes this is dramatic and will have far reaching consequences, but there’s something far scarier than that which pretty much everyone is overlooking. And in this case, this ignorance is what’s preventing the economy from collapsing. Ignorance is bliss!

Yes a major financial institution collapsed. Yes it happened in just a few days. Yes it’s a catastrophe. But there’s something far larger and more ominous looming just beneath the covers. The really really really scary part is that no one wanted to acquire them for pennies on the dollar without the Fed’s adding $30 billion to sweeten the deal!!!

Why is that? I can only come up with two reasons, both of which are incredibly scary.

  1. Everybody else is on the edge of insolvency and can’t afford a fire sale deal, even for pennies on the dollar.
  2. The number on the balance sheet are much worse than they appear and hence the revenues are collapsing (mortgages defaults are much much much higher than expected).

All I can say is WOW! Both of these options are incredibly scary and lead me to conclude that the worse hasn’t even yet begun.

[Disclaimer: Please note my numbers in the following analogy aren’t to scale as I haven’t yet had the time to fully absorb the details. ]

To take an analogy on a smaller scale, imagine that you own a house worth $600,000. Everything seems to be going fine, then within two days you somehow can’t meet your obligations. In other words you’ve become insolvent because of a cashflow issue almost instantaneously. Now imagine further that you can’t find any buyers for your house, even at $20,000. Yes the house does come with a mortgage that you have to assume, but it’s also being rented and is earning revenues. Up until a few days ago, you were supposedly maintaining profitability on it.

Which is scarier? The fact that you went insolvent or that there are no buyers when the house is going for a steal? By far the scariest thing is that there are no buyers. But now imagine further that to eventually get a buyer you need to have a third party (the Fed’s) add a large sum of money to make the deal happen. Getting pennies on the dollar wasn’t enough.

Which means either the revenues on the property weren’t exactly as good as you you stated or there is no one else with enough capital to buy a house at a fire sale price. I sincerely hope it’s because the deal wasn’t lucrative enough (the revenues weren’t as good as stated), otherwise the alternative is much worse and you can expect many more insolvency in the near future!

If it’s the later, than ignorance truly is bliss and might even save the economy!






How to generate traffic to your website – John Cow Review

Today I got another great review of my latest EBook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website from John Cow. John gave it a very positive review which you can read in full here.

My favorite quote from his review is:

“Stephane absolutely knows what he’s talking about, and a lot of this is also coming from his personal experiences as a webmaster. We’ve got nothing bad to say – in fact, looks like we’re going to have to redo our own ebook in the making.”

John’s also found one small minor flaw on Page 68 which he’s making into a contest. The first one to tell him what it is will win $30 via PayPal. In other words if you find it first, you’ll be getting the ebook for free! I’ve since found it and will correct it as soon as he lets me know someone has won contest.

Thank you John for the great review.






How to generate traffic to your website – Reviews and Comments

Yes

Reviews of my ebook “How to Generate Traffic to Your Website” are starting to appear online. Ian Landsman, founder of UserScape, commented earlier last week on his blog:

“Stephane yesterday released an interesting book on generating traffic to your site. It’s remarkably in depth. I’ve only read some of it so far, but what I’m most impressed with is the breadth of the coverage. It pretty much hits on everything someone starting a commercial website needs to think about. ”

Thank you Ian for the great comment.

And to add to this, yesterday Mani Karthik of Daily SEO Blog wrote a review of the ebook on BloggingTips.com. It was a very positive review. Below are some of the highlights:

  • To my surprise I found that Steph has done an indepth analysis of the traffic generation process and the sheer volume of topics covered in the ebook itself, reveals the amount of research Steph has done to accomplish this book.
  • In total, there are 11 chapters under the two sections that takes care of all the things (yes, I do mean it) that you need to know to create traffic to your website
  • Honestly, each section and category in itself could’ve easily made into another E-Book and believe me there are lot of e-books out there which deals with only 1/220th of what Steph’s written about in thie ebook, but sells for a higher price.
  • Steph’s done an amazing job on this ebook, and his hardwork is very evident from the research done, the topics and the sheer depth of information present on each topic.
  • Every page is simply worth the money you pay. And it’s cheaper that all those “I’ll teach you everything in two minutes” kind of books.

But my personal favorite is: “I can assure you that this is NOT an ebook that will contain information that you’ve already read elsewhere.

Thank you Mani for the detailed and very positive review. If you’re interested you can read Mani’s full interview here.






InBoxer – Email Spam Filter for Outlook

Email Spam

About a year and a half ago I was getting really frustrated with the levels of spam my personal emails were receiving so I wrote a blog post asking what others were doing to reduce their email spam. Someone suggested SpamBayes, a free open source solution, which worked great for a while but then I had some issues with it. This eventually lead me to InBoxer, which is basically a commercial version of SpamBayes.

Over the last year or so it’s been amazing! It uses Bayesian spam filtering, so it took a bit to get it fully going. But once up and running things were great. Unfortunately, last week for some strange reason the database corrupted itself. Who knows why but it was frustrating. My greatest fear was that as I was launching my new EBook I’d be in the middle of training the Bayesian spam filter. I couldn’t ask for worse timing!!! In the middle of promoting the ebook I’d have to look at every single email as the spam filters wouldn’t be trained enough yet.

The good news though is that because of the volume of emails I get I was able to train the spam filter to a good enough level before the ebook launch. It has slowed me down a bit, but not nearly as much as I expected. And it’s reminded me of the appreciation I originally had for InBoxer when I first got it. For $40 it’s well worth it! 






 
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