Thursday, April 21, 2005

Surviving Google's Aging Delay

Back in November, when I first set out on my own as a microISV, I launched the site as a service to other microISVs. In just two weeks I was ranked 2nd in Google for my target keywords. I was right up there with Eric Sink and - the definitive sites on the topic of single person software companies.

I thought I had a good idea of how to conduct SEO. So when I launched in March I wasn't too concerned about getting near top search engine ranking, especially since site has specific target keywords. Daily I checked but I was still lost on page 6 or 7 in Google.

However, for many results searches I was already #1 in Altavista and MSN.
Altavista Robbie burns 8K results

It would be a huge boost to my business if I could get that sort of ranking in Google. What is going on with Google? I started working on incoming links and kept monitoring my ranking but no improvement.

Then I discovered that Google has put an aging delay in place that prevents new sites from getting ranked. (read more about the Aging Delay...)

Apparently it will be 6-8 months before I start to see top rankings. However, I am reading that taking out a Google AdWords ad will immediately remove the aging delay. If so, then Google has abandoned their role of impartially indexing the web. These are dirty tactics but I guess Google is a business and they are free to do anything they want to generate revenue.

I'm going to do some more research to find out whether I need to advertise on Google if I want to receive a high ranking, especially in the first 6 months.

The other thing that can c be done to jump start indexing in Google is to make use of existing domains you may have that are old enough to be indexed. I have several, two of which receive top ranking for certain keywords. is the site that I launched last November as a resource for other software entrepeneurs who were just starting out like me. There are several keyword combinations related to microISVs and software entrepreneurs that I get top ranking. So I could piggy-back on this site to get some good rankings to my site.
I also, have been managing for a few years now (although it's fairly stale lately). I can get top search ranking with this site as well. This site would make more sense to act as a Google Search front end to since the topic is similar.

This makes me think, if some microISV out there wants to take over a site that gets hits from software entrepreneurs then I would consider transferring it at a very low cost. It has consistent medium-level traffic, is indexed well by the search engines and has many incoming links. Contact me if you think you would like to take this site over...

Yahoo! Small Business Doesn't Like Canadians

I have never ranted in my blog before, but...
In my previous blog I briefly described how I spent a week creating a Yahoo! Small Business Storefront only to find out that since I am in Canada I will not be able to get a merchant account to accept credit cards.
If I can save even one other person who lives outside of the United States from wasting time like I did then this blog will be a success.
Yahoo! Small Business makes it REAL easy to launch a small eCommerce site. I can't imagine it being much easier. And the cost is quite low.
But if you are not in the United States you will not be able to accept credit card payments.

Now you know.

Rainmaking: "If you build it, they will come. If you don't keep working on it, they will go away."

You will recall from my previous blogs, that in November and December I did alot of reading and background research about small business and being an entrepreneur. I read about being a Rainmaker in sales. In theory I understood that being a Rainmaker means that if you don't get out there and sell then you won't sell anything. Sounds obvious enough. But in the past month I have been experiencing it first hand.

The Rainmaker image is an allegory suggesting that the rain doesn't just come - you need to do a rain dance to attract it, encourage it and coax it. And you don't just do it once and walk away. You need to keep up the dance.

My first sponsorships and first site memberships were thrilling. After launching I promoted it at The Around-The-Bay Road Race. The result was a spike in traffic and some phone calls that lead to sponsorship. Then nothing. So I made some calls and sent out some emails. And BAM, more sponsorship and partners.

I went back to developing some features and working on a partner eCommerce site and the incoming interest and traffic to the site waned. I started to really get the feel for how sales and promotion activity responds directly to the amount of effort I put into it.

It feels like inflating a ballon that has a slow leak. If you keep pumping air into it then everything is great. As soon as you stop pumping air then the balloon slowly deflates and 'dies'.

At this point, I am still at the stage where revenue isn't the main priority until more features are completed which will lead to traffic which is necessary for advertisers. So I don't need to keep 'pumping up' the work on getting sponsors but site traffic works the same way. If you abandon your work on promoting the site to build traffic then your logs will directly reflect this. I have watched 'hits' go from thousands to hundreds in a week whenever I neglect my work on promotion.

The Field of Dreams mantra, "If you build it, they will come." doesn't work in business.
Rather, "If you build it, they will come. If you don't keep working on it, they will go away."

In just the short month that I have been Rainmaking, I've learned that the following traits are necessary:
1) Creativity - come up with creative solutions by imagining you are the prospect and creatively creating a solution for them
2) Enthusiasm - get excited about how a partnership between you and the prospect will create a Win-Win outcome (you need to keep thinking about how the other party will benefit)
3) a point - offer altenative solutions to your customer (different promotions, different requirements, scaled back features etc), but know when it's time to stop the pressure and just keep in touch with the customer in case the situation changes in the future
4) Integrity - believe that what you have is exactly what the client or customer needs, and if it is not then move on
5) Being Real - the best approach is to simply communicate with your customer as yourself, don't try to be slick

The Main Thing is keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

It's been a month since launching After The Launch of a site (or any software for that matter) as soon as positive indicators of success start coming in (such as early revenue, traffic, emails, feedback) the tendency is to rush things.
Even with thorough market research you still never know how successful your venture will be until it's 'out there' performing in the real world. So, when you start to realize that 'this thing has potential' the excitement builds and you want every feature to be complete, all possible promotion done, every possible sales prospect contacted, top search rankings, etc. etc.
At least this is what I have experienced. "IF ONLY, I could get these features and these sponsors and these users then this venture could be wildly successful sooner than planned."
Well, don't abandon your diligence by being hasty now that things look promising.
A Proverb says, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." (proverbs 21:5)
It was methodical planning and diligence that got this product launched and now is no time to abandon it for haste.

In the past month, I stressed and pushed to get too much done and to accomplish things before their time. It's not so much a problem of working too hard but rather a case of trying to do something before it's natural time.

In the past few weeks I deviated from my one year plan (shown below) and tried to get an eCommerce site launched as I describe below. This work really messed up my progress and added to my stress level.

Here's a brief summary of what I got me off track.
After the launch, I generated promising traffic numbers and secured some sponsorship for the site. I had a list of features that I planned but I thought it would be great if I could monetize the traffic sooner than later and get some revenue flowing. I know that until traffic reaches a much greater level I will not be able to go after certain national advertizers so direct sales seemed appealing.
My plan is to create a partner eCommerce site for that will offer products targetted at my users. I spent at a great deal of time setting up all the merchant accounts, getting the product distributor accounts, getting my Vendor Permit and investigating full-service hosting that will allow me to get the eCommerce site launched quickly.
The result of my research was that Yahoo!'s Small Business Services makes it real easy to build an online storefront and connect it to a backend payment processor. According to their instructions I needed to build the storefront first and then apply for the PaymentTech credit card merchant account. To approve me for the merchant account they needed to look at the site. So I took a week to do this, with product pictures, descriptions, categories etc. Then I started the process of getting the merchant account and immediately found out that since I am in Canada I can't get a merchant account that will work with Yahoo!'s backend processing system. Nothing in their user guides or online help explained this before I started. So, I was ticked! Of course, they gave me a refund but I still wasted some time. All was not lost, the storefront pages I made will make it quicker to do this again with some other Canadian-based hosting solution but wasted time is something I can't afford now.
The eCommerce hosting solution I use will probably be

Don't deviate from the plan. It wasn't time to rush into direct product sales yet. And even if it was, I approached this with too much haste.
So after learning this lesson I am taking a deep breath and reminding myself of the one-year plan for (shown below).
Once making this realization, and slowing down to put things into perspective I feel much less stress. I have a plan and it can't all get done this week.
Lesson Learned - stick to the plan, and stick to the schedule.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Online TODO Lists

I am now moving away from the Development phase to the promotion phase.
I am finding that the personal process needed here isn't the same as I used when developing (see my Big Charts post)
What I have now is hundreds of little TODOs when doing business development and promotion.
After a bit of searching I found 'The Simplest Thing That Works' with an online todo list/ WIKI-like thing at:
- The Online To-Do List

Give it a try.

Fortunately, the launch of hasn't had many programming fires to put out. But all the little tasks are piling up and I am entering a mode called 'Running Down the Hall with Your Hair on Fire". A picture is worth a thousand words...

Promotion of has started

Yesterday marked the first day that I promoted within the target market - runners in Ontario.
The first big road race of the year in this area is the Around-the-Bay 30K run. I attended this race and promoted the site.
Can you tell from the daily stats graph when I started promoting the site...

The great thing is that there are still almost no referrers so that means thousands of users have typed in

I haven't done anything for SEO so I still an not indexed. That is at the top of my list. (see next Blog entry about Todo List).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Serious Design Flaw in PHP Development Environment

I was forced to buy 'File Recovery for Windows' late Sunday night.

Here's the scenario.
In Zend Dev Studio...
1. Right Click a Project and click 'Add to Project' in the context menu
2. Try to select a file in c:\RoadRaceResults directory
3. Double click RoadRaceResults directory (instead of click)
This adds the c:\RoadRaceResults directory to the project rather than open up the folder to allow a file in it to be selected.
4. So remove this folder from the project and try to add the file again.
Do this by Right Clicking c:\RoadRaceResults in project and click Delete.


Folder and all subdirectories GONE!
And since it was deleted by an app it isn't in Recycle Bin.

Thank God for my nightly backups to another computer but this day was an amazingly productive day.
All the work this day was lost.

Quickly do a search for recovery software.
FILE Recovery for Windows seems like the best bet.
I gave it a try.
I was able to find some files that had some of the content I was looking for. Of course the filenames didn't give a hint but the Last Modified time helped narrow it down. With some hunting, all the bytes of the files were somewhere on the hard drive and in a couple hours I was able to piece everything back together. I got to bed after 1AM considerably less stressed than I was a couple hours earlier.

Bad feedback for Zend Dev Studio.
Great feedback for FILE Recovery for Windows.

Technologies used for Portal

After evaluating several languages, tools and environments, here is what I finally decided on to deploy

The criteria were:
- excellent development environment
- site will be all dynamic pages
- quick execution speed, site must be very responsive
- support and documentation easy to access, many other developers to tap into
- hosting of chosen technologies widely available and competively prices
- compatibility with all client platform
- compatibility with at least one common server platform
- cost
- server logging, monitoring and statistics

Factors that were not very important, if at all:
- learning curve
- complexity
- third party components availability

I needed to choose technologies for:
-web application server
- server-side application development and hosting
- database
- page markup
- some client-side functionality
- development envisome client-side functionality

I always lean toward technologies that are low-level to gain speed at the expense of complexity. I have a great deal of experience with CGI and some ISAPI filter experience so that wasn't out of the question. Those would result in the most responsive sites. But cost was a factor here and hosting was more limited for these. I would have had to co-locate the host right from day one if I went this way. Eventually, I will need to co-locate but I wanted to wait to grow into that.

I have experience with ASP.NET and some ASP experience so those were each a possibility. My experience with these is that there is a bit more overhead than I am comfortable with. In addition, my tendency to low-level solutions pushed me away from these but I seriously considered .NET. Hosting is getting quite easy to find and cost effective.

Finally, I jumped on the bandwagon and selected PHP and mySQL even though I hadn't every used them. I was up to speed quite quickly and everything is going great so far. Easy to learn. Quick responsive site. Easy to deploy. Widely available hosting. Cost effective. etc. etc.

For the development environment I tried several CSS editors, HTML editors, graphics tools, PHP development environments and FTP clients. I'm not going to take the time to list all the tools I didn't choose but suffice to say, I tried almost everything.

Here's what I finally choose:

  • HTML Pad or Rapid CSS from Blumentals (RapidPHP from Blumentals didn't make the cut though)

  • Zend Studio Client (excellent PHP debugging)

  • Navicat 2004 (mySQL client)

  • Flash FTP

  • Easy GIF Animator (Blumentals)

  • Corel Draw

  • MS Paint

  • JASC Aftershot (for simple filtering and transforming images)

  • TextPAD

I'm still deciding on the site monitoring and site analysis tools.
WebTrends seems very good so far.
Save yourself some time. If you're building a portal with medium traffic then these tools will allow you to deploy a responsive, reliable site in a minimum amount of time. BETA Launched!

As reported in a previous Blog entry, in January I changed gears from my qWIKpage Intranet prototype to the design and development of
Now, after about a month of development I have launched the BETA site!

Please, take a look and give me any feedback you can think of...

  • Look'n'Feel

  • Colors, Fonts

  • Site navigation

  • Features

  • Useability

  • etc.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

PHP with mySQL Authentication Protocol OLD_PASSWORD Problem

I just finished wrestling through a problem with mySQL that I now understand.
I'll share my experience in hopes that someone else who has the same problem in the future will stumble on the solution here.

Problem: A PHP client of a mySQL database gets an error message when calling mysql_connect:
"Client does not support authentication protocol requested
by server; consider upgrading MySQL client"

It turns out that the problem is because I changed the PHP client user password using Navicat 2004 6.1.9. Apparently, almost all of the mySQL Administration packages change a password using a new mySQL 4.1.1 password hashing scheme. The PHP client uses an old hashing scheme so the authentication fails. Even though the password is correct it doesn't get hashed using the same scheme that the admin client used.

Solution: Use the mySQL command-line client to change the password...

mysql> SET PASSWORD FOR 'some_user'@'some_host' = OLD_PASSWORD('newpwd');

The OLD_PASSWORD function forces the hashing scheme to be the same that the PHP client uses.

Read more about it in the mySQL Reference Manual.
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