AdWords. AdCenter. Yahoo Search. Amazon. Oh My.

With the number of portal sites opening - and have been around – there has to be a better way to make better use of our time. Small sites are already stretched thin enough as it is, but in order to get reliable – even if sometimes expensive – traffic, we have to make feeds for:

  • Shopzilla
  • Shopping
  • Amazon
  • Froogle
  • Need more? There are thousands

Just to name a few.

On top of this; we also have to create keyword bid lists for:

  • Yahoo Search Marketing
  • Adwords
  • MSN Adcenter
  • Many different 2nd/3rd tier search engines

There has to be a way to consolidate all of these into a single – either web based or windows based - software system that lets you upload new ads, keywords, items to the appropriate place, organize them to each of their liking. Manage your bids, track your ROI and keep a budget all without costing a fortune. Something that’d let you stop keywords at one or all of them at the same time, add new products to a given with a click of a button and upload it instantly. Why are we continued to be forced to use these impossibly difficult GUI interfaces.

Given the right software, it seems like a business owner (or a trusted employee) could easily manage all of this themselves in a few minutes time. If you think anyone you hire through these analytic companies spends more than that on your account, you are kidding yourself. ”Dedicated” account rep is really just a selling point and thus a bunch of bunk. I’ve tried out several of these services. Each one is very non-responsive or slow in getting you the data you need.

Optimizing ad text. Please. What more do you need than a url for the person to click and (probably) the price they will see when they get there. Assuming the clicker is reading anything more than that is fantasy. All web owners know this. No one reads your website. Or they wouldn’t call and ask questions that are plainly obvious on every page of the site.

Selecting keywords? Come on. Who knows my market (and my keywords) than me, the person who runs the business every day. Do I suspect Bob over in CA (3000 miles away from me) knows what terms will create buyers better than I do? Unlikely, he neither has the time (he has 50 other clients to be “dedicated” to today) nor the knowledge of my field (chances of this guy being a widget expert are 1 in a billion). We all have the same tools to track keywords. Wordtracker. Only YOU know what keywords convert browsers into buyers.

 Someone, please, just give us a piece of software that lets us manage our keywords/feeds/bids/ROI in a single setup without having to type our same username password 80 times to do it. Is it really that difficult? I find it amazing that these big companies don’t work together (We all know they are all part of an  oligopoly anyways – they raise their prices at the same time or in close proximity, have similar marketing tactics, etc) and make it easier for people to use all these things at once. Easier = more clients = more money. It isn’t rocket science. Really.

We have price comparison software for UPS/FedEx/USPS that is widely available. Surely getting a package (at the best shipping rate!) from my warehouse to Podunk, LA is more difficult than putting a keyword on the internet. Why isn’t it?

EBay and Shill Bidding

Times Online has a great story today about shill bidding on ebay. Shill bidding is a practice, whereby sellers use a false ID (or have a buddy) bid on a product in an effort to raise the selling price of it. This either forces up the bidding (if the current winner sets a high maximum bid) or lets the seller not sell it at all if the price doesn’t reach where he wants it to reach.

Ebay has made this practice easier (in my estimation) by hiding bidder names from users. With a little pattern recognition, it used to be easy to tell if a seller shill bidded or not. Simply check his past auctions; if the same user or two always appeared in the bidders list – never won, just drove up the price, then you can safely assume he’s a shill bidder. I know it’s commonplace – I’ve been the victim of it on domain name auctions in the past. Times Online just confirmed it.

One of Ebay’s Titanium PowerSellers virtually admitted to such a practice. From the story:

In a conversation with an undercover reporter last week, Paraskevaides claimed shill bidding was commonplace on eBay.

When the reporter asked whether he arranged for associates to bid on his own items, he replied: “Well, if I put something really expensive (up for sale) and I was concerned that it was going for nothing, I would phone a friend of mine, even a client of mine who buys from me, and say: For Christ’s sake, I sell you 100 quids’ worth of items a week . . . just put two grand on it, will you?” The reporter was posing as a seller of valuable antiquities. He inquired whether Paraskevaides could sell them on eBay and guarantee a minimum price.

He replied: “Leave it to me (laughs). Don’t call it shill bidding. Then I won’t be accused of shill bidding. Yes. I mean — I’ve got people.

Ebay could very easily solve this problem; and the sniping problem as well, if they’d simply extend auctions automatically if someone bids in the last 5-10 minutes of one. Let’s say someone bids with 2 minutes left (usually a sniper), it is virtually impossible for someone else to come in and win (page loads, internet access, etc). Ebay should simply extend the auction another hour. If someone bids 50 minutes later, extend the auction again, until no one has bid for hour before close. Simple enough. Sellers would probably love it, as those last minute price wars can get intense (I’ve been in one and regretted paying so much later – but you just want to win!)

For shilling, simple pattern recognition on Ebay’s part could resolve this as well. If you are seller x, and you always have buyer y bidding on your stuff (as before, never winning, just running up the price), then the chances are high its a shill bidder. Take action.

Ebay is good at raising fees every quarter, but it does a terrible job on customer support, getting refunds to sellers when the buyer never pays, and changing the TOS with little notice. Ebay is a victim of its own success, in this regard.

Clementine Oranges

Is it me, or are clementine oranges the best oranges in the world. Small, not too sweet and easy to peel. Publix, our local supermarket, has a crate of them (about 20 or 30 oranges) for like $5. Can’t beat the price either. I’m not sure if they are recent arrivals in the supermarket or not, but I don’t remember seeing them a few years ago, but glad I found them! Get a crate or two of these things; you won’t regret it!

Oh yeah! They are seedless too! Does it get any better?

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Youtube Announces Ad Revenue Sharing

A story on the BBC says Youtube will introduce an ad revenue sharing system to users who upload videos onto the site. Sounds like a great idea, right? Or not.

 The system would be rolled out in a couple of months, he said, and use a mixture of adverts, including short clips shown ahead of the actual film.

So, before each video, you’ll have to watch an advertisement? The beauty of Youtube is no ads before the clips. Most (if not all) other major video sites make you suffer through a commercial before the actual clip starts. Who is going to watch a bunch of random videos if you have to be inundated with commercials between each one? I think this could be a big mistake.

The good news is that, apparently, they will only be 3 seconds long:

The audience of the YouTube website will not have to put up with overly long “pre-roll” adverts. Mr Hurley said a clip of three seconds length was one of the options, although the details had not been worked out yet.

Add caching to that, waiting for it to load and you are up to 4 or 5 seconds. The internet is not that patient. Time will tell if this works or not.

Web 2.0: Summed Up Stupidity of Internet Users

Web 2.0 is the newest thing. The latest craze! It’s amazing. It’s fun. It’s incredibly stupid. Let’s take Digg and Yahoo! Answers for examples. Very Web 2.0. Very interactive with visitors. And mind numblingly stupid. Both of them.

Digg is a wonderful little site that ranks stories based on their popularity with their users. Users post stories, users vote on the stories. Then users complain about the stories that they just posted up! Digg drives a ton of of traffic to your site, especially if you are lucky enough to get to the front page of the site. So, users click over to the article on your site - usually en masse, called the Digg effect – then they leave and complain about the site they just chose to visit. For a web owner, the traffic is not only useless (it never converts into sales or ad revenue) and encourages drive by traffic. Here and gone. Very rarely will a new visitor come and try and look deeply at the site and see if there is anything else of value. Wham, bam, thank ya ma’am! Here’s a nice little entry that sums up several reasons why Digg is useless. (Fittingly, I found this by searching “Digg sucks” on Google).

Now, let’s talk about “Yahoo! Answers”. Or, as I like to say “Yahoo! Lazy”. People ask the most inane questions. Let’s preview some mind numbing questions asked today:

Refrigerator temperatures? Yes – what about them? Care to ask an actual question?

My sister lives in the philippines, how long does her I-130 form to get approved? Isn’t this really a question for the government. I’m sure some schlub on the Internet knows the answer to this question. Somehow I think the winning answer will be “Visit this government website and find out!”

Can i get a lone to buy a $700,000 house? If you can’t spell loan, I’d say chances are pretty slim.

How many calories are in a chicken ceasar salad from ol’ charley’s resturant? Uh. Ask Ol’ Charley’s Restaurant?

Want to download im for yahoo how do i do this thx? Ugh. Where do you start? It’s not like Yahoo has a messenger link on every page of the site!

How many ppl got AIDS in Thailand? Check with the Thailand website. Or search “aids thailand” on Google. It’s really not that difficult.

Then you tack on the celebrities who “ask” questions to the world thru Yahoo Answers! “How do you end poverty” “How do you stop breast cancer?” As if some random yo-yo on Yahoo is going to answer questions that have boggled mankind since time immemorial. My answer to the second one was “Ban women” Women account for like 90% of all breast cancer cases, so banning them, seems like a good start. Right? Yahoo didn’t think so and I lost 10 Yahoo Answer points. Boo.

Need I go on? Really? Feel free to browse Yahoo Answers and get your own entertainment. It’s fun to answer stupid questions with stupid answers and have Yahoo email you saying “this is not a helpful answer”.

 More Stupid Stuff …. Iguanas and Viagra!

Discount-Mats.Com: A Lesson in Business

By now, you have heard of the story about Discount-Mats.com (I won’t link to the site for reasons that will become apparent later). A soldier in the military wanted to order mats from this website and asked if they shipped to APO addresses. Someone at the company emailed back saying that they do not ship to military addresses, and if they did they wouldn’t ship to Iraq and that the Army should pull out.

I own a small business and let me start by saying that I ship to APO (military addresses) but only reluctantly. It’s a pain in the butt to do so. You have to fill out customs forms, for some reason. You have no idea when the package will arrive – only recently has the USPS enabled tracking for such shipments. And, an international company handles the mail for much of the way (a customer/soldier informed me of this months ago) and they are not reliable. So, your shipment can arrive in a week or it can arrive in a month. Who knows. Most customers with APO addresses understand this, some do not. I like having a certain delivery date and I hate filling out customs forms. But, still, I ship to military addresses.

The guy at Discount-Mats.com said they would not ship to Iraq. How does he even know the package is going to Iraq? APO’s go to New York (I believe) then are forwarded to their final destination. Putting your personal feelings behind your business is a very quick way to put yourself out of business. I’ve learned this a long time ago. More recently, when customers have personally threatened my life (maybe I’ll tell the story another time) for no reason at all, you have to stick to your nonemotional responses or you will eventually lose control of what you have set up.

Discount-Mats.com may well be out of business in a few months. Or it may not. This is a very short term story and no one will remember it in 2 months. The internet’s memory is long, but peoples’ memory is short. What Discount-Mats.com HAS earned because of this is a ton of incoming links to their site. And, as we all know, incoming links help you rank in search engines. So, this blog will not honor their insult by linking to the site. I know I’d love to get inbound links from WSJ, NYTimes – oh wait, I have those, and other major papers. But that doesn’t happen by properly running a business, unfortunately. Controversy will probably propel Discount-Mats.com to the top of the SE’s in no time at all. Congratulations pontificators!

So, once again, (eventually) there is no such thing as bad publicity. Every major paper online links to this site now and will, for at least, a while.

A story yesterday suggests that Discount-Mats.Com did not fire the employee as they had said.

All of the research I have done shows this to be a one or maybe two man operation.  A search of the workers compensation database shows no company by that name listed.  That means either they don’t pay out over $500 a year to employees, or… they have no employees.  I very much doubt the assertion that someone has been fired.  The rest of the media has just accepted this story and moved on.  I have placed calls today to both Faisal Khetani and Sajid Nasir (the person listed in the article as the vice-president of the company) and have yet to get a phone call back.

I did not do the same research, but I’ll assume its accurate. It is VERY easy to run an internet based business with one or two people. You can easily mask how many people you have by having generic email address (cs@domain.com, contact@domain.com) and no one knows you are working alone. I did this the first few years I was online. I bet the guy who wrote the email was the owner, possibly the co-owner of the company. There is, simply, no one to fire.

But, the customer claims to never have received an apology from the company. The company says they did apologize. I’d tend not to believe Discount-Mats.com.

Either way, this is a good lesson in business. About being emotional in your business dealings. Benefiting from controversy. And making headlines for yourself.

All-in-all, if the company can survive through this short period of turmoil, I’d say it has a bright future ahead of itself. Especially since the offending employee no longer works there *wink wink*

Global Warming and the Gulf Stream

I brought this up in a forum the other day, but never got an answer, so I’m making it more public for some insight. I’ll readily admit I don’t think global warming – as a manmade occurrence – exists. The earth has cooled and warmed in the not too distant past. Remember the Little Ice Age (1650-1850) and the medieval warming period (800-1300 AD).

Someone brought up that Global Warming would cause the Gulf Stream to slow down and not circulate warmer water to the north (England, Europe) causing their temperatures to drop. This has happened before; the Little Ice Age. During the Little Ice Age, the Gulf Stream weakened by 10% between the 16th and 19th centuries. So, you have unexplained warming causing the Gulf Stream to slow down - before man had SUVs and caused global warming. Plus, we have scientists saying “we need to get rid of the medieval warming period“. Why?

If you show that the planet has cooled and warmed all by itself, you have essentially disproven man’s involvement in Global Warming have you not? It has happened in the past (pre industrial revolution); the Earth has warmed and it has cooled down again. If we are in a warming period right now – which is highly debatable, then why be concerned? If your interest is the health of the planet, isn’t this healthy? Letting nature take its course. If the planet gets too warm, it finds a way to cool itself off again. Takes time, but it has – and does – happen.

I’ll expound more on Global Warming another time.

Seven Wonders of the World Competition

We already have the seven wonders of the ancient world; and in no particular order, here they are:

  • the pyramids
  • the hanging gardens of Babylon
  • the temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • the statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • the Colossus of Rhodes
  • the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
  • the lighthouse of Alexandria.

Of these, no one is even sure if the Hanging Gardens even existed (I doubt they did; maybe I’ll expound on that another day) and the Colossus of Rhodes – no one even knows what this looked like or how big it really was, if it straddled the harbor or not. It could be 8 feet tall. No one really knows. Wild exaggerations is all we have. Nonetheless.

Seems that there is a new competition to decide upon the 7 wonders of the modern world. Why is 7 a magical number? Free advertising, I guess. Anyways. Egypt is a little peaved because its wonders (the pyramids) are the only ancient ones remaining; which gives them a little cache. And plus, it’s funnier when Team America blew them up too.

Egypt is calling it a marketing stunt. I don’t think its a marketing stunt, so much as a way for Weber to mooch off the countries that in the competition. Here’s a story from today. Here’s my evidence:

Weber has embarked on a tour of the 21 short-listed sites but got a frosty reception in Egypt.

In other words, “Dude you got some rockin’ wonders here. Can I stay free in your hotels so I can take pictures of them so people will vote? Imagine the tourist dollars if you win a spot. Ka-Ching” Sure man, stay as long as you want. Need some women (or men) too?

Some of the sites in competition are:

  • Petra in Jordan
  • the Eiffel Tower
  • the Acropolis in Athens
  • the Statue of Liberty
  • the Taj Mahal
  • the Sydney Opera House
  • the Great Wall of China

Someone remind me why the Acropolis is in there? If it didn’t make the cut the first time the seven wonders was announced, why give it a second shot? Napoleon’s army blew the it apart a few centuries ago anyways. It’s not too pretty now. And, technically, the Great Wall isn’t really a “wonder” its a series of small wonders, by slave labor. Is that what you want to put forth?

The Sydney Opera House? Come on now. The 7 wonders of the ancient world were monumental achievements that boggled the minds of people in those time periods. Can we say that about the opera house – how many people even know it exists? Maybe the Eiffel Tower, maybe the Taj Mahal. I’d vote for the Twin Towers, personally. But that everyone gets a vote – a popularity contest? That doesn’t have a lot of science behind it.

But all in all, this is a silly contest. I don’t really know or care what Petra is now and if its in the 7 wonders I won’t know or care any more afterwards. Let the 7 wonders be part of the past. If you want to memorialize magnificent structures of today, don’t mooch of the cache of bygone civilizations to do so.

Resume Writing Tips

Since we’ve recently been hiring and I’ve been receiving quite a few resumes, I’ve began to wonder if they teach resume writing in school anymore? I know I learned the basics in high school. Maybe they don’t do it anymore. Alas. Here are some common mistakes and irritants that make me put down a resume immediately. I’m sure many employers would agree:

  1. Resume is too long. If your resume is 5 pages long, I won’t read it. They are boring. Make it 2 pages at the most. If you can fit it on a single page, even better. I don’t need (or care) about your work history from when Nixon was president.
  2. Spelling. This is basic. If you hired people, you did not hire “personal” you hired “personnel”. Yes, I have a resume in front of me that says “Hired personal” Ugh.
  3. Lack of experience. I’ve put my ad on Craigslist to save money. I get replies from people who do not even possess the basic skills I am looking for. While your telemarketing experience is nice, its not really suitable to driving a forklift. Get me?
  4. Funky email addresses. Hey. Call me discriminatory. If your email address is funkypotsmoker@aol.com I probably will not be giving you a call for an interview. At least for professional purposes, I’d maintain an email address that isn’t sexychick69@yahoo.com. Even if you are sexy chick 69, I really don’t need to know nor want to know.
  5. Moving to the area. If you are not currently living in an area where you are applying for a job, I’d note that you are in the process of moving and when you will be available. Yes; its easy to email and ask. But its a lot easier on me to know ahead of time. Easy on me, means more chance of an interview for you.
  6. Unknown tasks. I get resumes in with people whose tasks were “do cycle counts each morning” What is this? It may have been important, but at least make what your experience is understandable by everyone. I think I’d also avoid putting mundane tasks such as “daily bank deposits” on your resume. While I understand that it denotes a certain level of trust from your former employer, your mad driving skillz are not very important.

That’s the main tips from the current crop of resumes. If other employers have others, please feel free to comment. I’ll add them to the post.