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 microISVReality.com 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 microisv.com - 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 RoadRaceResults.com 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.
www.qwikpage.com 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 RoadRaceResults.com site.
I also, have been managing www.RunningClub.ca 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 RoadRaceResults.com 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... www.qWIKpage.com

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 RoadRaceResults.com 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) Persistence...to 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 RoadRaceResults.com. 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 RoadRaceResults.com 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 www.cartikahosting.com.

LESSON LEARNED
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 RoadRaceResults.com (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.

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