Monthly Archives: August 2008

SEO? Brand Is Secondary!

Isn’t it all about brand? The more people know about your brand, the better it is. Ins’t it? Corporations take extra effort to protect their brand and image. So, does that mean it applies to you as well, a small business owner, just started off with a website?

Well, the answer is no. Trust me and I will explain why.

I had a small software product and I came up with a very unique and nice name for it. I created a website and optimized the page for my product name. Then, I went to a few blogs that are relevant to my product and offered valuable comments (don’t frown, yes, it’s kind of a spam, but when you promote your website only at the most relevant sites, it is useful to the blog owners as well) and used my product name, the brand, as the name of the commenter and the website url as the url of the commenter, naturally.

With this, I did end up getting a few visitors. Some even searched for the brand now and then. But what next? Beyond that occasional traffic that either came through those comments or searched the brand, there is no organic growth.

In the meanwhile, one good thing happened. The website’s pagerank moved from nothing to a whopping 3! (Yeah, I know, I know, it’s usually no big to reach to a 3 and moving beyond that is a big challenge).

Now, I do have a competitor. When I say competitor, you might immediately think another company that’s probably making a lot of money. Isn’t it? Funny thing is, this guys gives away his software for free. How can you beat the “free offer”? Well, luckily, for me, the product offers superior benefits. Nope, it’s not just me trying to do a sales pitch. Yes, that’s too. But the fact that I have real customers who tried out that “free offer” and moved to my product is a real testimony for my sales pitch.

I waited a few weeks and hoped that my website will eventually get me more traffic, especially with the newly updated pagerank 3. But it wasn’t happening. Then, I realized the mistake I made with my website.

If there are not many people who know about my product, and they don’t know my brand, how would they think of searching for it? I mean, those who grew up with viewsonic monitors may still not be aware that viewsonic offers lcd hdtvs. And you won’t search for what you don’t know. I know, search is all about discovering what you don’t know, I mean, if you know, why search right?

People search because they know what feature or functionality they want in a product, but not necessarily the product itself! Read this again and this is the key. It’s not your product name, it’s the product’s functionality that matters. Yes, it’s the product functionality that people keep searching. So, optimize your website for your product functionality or the services you offer. Not the name of your company or the name of the product.

After this realization, I went and made a few changes to my website, the most important being the title of the website. My product name no longer appears in the title! Instead, it contains the words related to my product functionality. Luckily, there are no other products in my niche except for this free product. But there are several blogs that talk about it. Currently I am positioned 3rd in SERP for the new keywords I optimized for based on the functionality. The first being the free offer and the second being a blog. As you know, Google keeps changing the SERPs a little so that the same website shows up 3rd or 4th sometimes or even lower. It happens for me as well. But first thing is, now I am getting traffic for the right set of keywords and it’s more targeted traffic. While I am yet to see conversions, I see people spending more time on the website. When this happens, you know it’s good. You know, you didn’t just try to trick a search engine. See, people are smart. You can trick a computer, however smart it’s algorithms are, but you can’t trick a real person. In a few seconds of glancing and gazing your website, people will runaway if your site is not really about the keywords you optimized for.

In the closing, I want to point out one thing. While the brand is secondary initially, once a critical mass is acquired, remember to start making the brand also prominent. Usually this may not be necessary, but if there are bigger bloggers and news papers write articles about your product, sometimes they might show up before you. Increasing the pagerank further is the best possible option at this time. So, here is the sequence of steps to follow which might take a few months to years.

  1. Create a website
  2. Write good content on the website. Optimize for the functionality and not brand.
  3. Promote it at a few free places (your own blog, comments on other blogs, free PR sites)
  4. Get traffic. Analyze the traffic. Make sure people are spending more time and even bookmarking for subsequent visits. If they are quickly running away, chances are you are trying to promote wrongly
  5. After a while, after making several sales and others start writing about your product or service, then try to increase your pagerank further.
  6. At this time, try to slowly start promoting the brand as well.

Good luck with the SEO effort!

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Filed under SEO, SEO tips

What is more expensive than a $910 bunch of grapes?

As per spendmatters.com When it Comes to Fruit in Japan Spend Does not Matter, someone paid $910 to get a bunch of new variety grapes. And the post says “The Japanese might have pioneered the Toyota Production System (which I believe to be the forerunner of lean) and are known as some of the best — and most fair — negotiators in the business. But when it comes to spending on the home front, they aren’t exactly a role model for the rest of the world.”

This is interesting, when you see stories like I am rich buyer happening in the US!

What really matters is the person doing the spending, not the nation! Sorry, don’t make it a nationality issue.

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Who Said Manager Jobs Are Safe?

There is an interesting article called IT workers pushed to the limits. This is probably true. The article also talks about outsourcing and cost cutting by management as one of the reasons to heat up the temperature in the IT rooms between the engineers and managers.

First, many manager jobs are also getting outsourced. If all the engineers are in a different country, what value would the first line managers add sitting on the other side of the globe? Next, if all the first line managers are on the other side of the globe what is the point in having the second line manager on the other side of the globe? This can be extended all the way up to the CEO, no doubt. With the CEOs salaries increasing at such obscene proportions, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the most successful companies of the future happen to be in other countries. Well, that’s probably going to take a long time or may never happen for various other reasons, but the main point here is that the very manager who may have fired/outsourced an engineering job should think twice on how long his/her job is safe.

BTW, if you are thinking that I am just speculating, take a look at the top software companies and the rate at which they have been expanding their development centers in other countries. Friends tell me that these days their companies have managers from other countries managing employees and even managers within the US! Yes, corporate America is doing it and just like every manager reached that stage or a bit higher by optimizing their budget, CEOs are also doing the same thing, pleasing their board and share holders and outsourcing or opening up R&D centers in cheaper countries.

While this is generally true for large companies as they can afford to have their own centers in other countries, these days it’s common with startups as well. I have had the pleasure of interviewing candidates for CTO position for a friend and some of them talked about how they can provide low cost development options which ranged from using Amazon’s cloud computing infrastructure to having a development centers in other countries and creating a global organizations. Well, with the venture capital moving towards < $10 million and in some cases even < 1 $million (am I seeing a parallel between the VC funding and notebook/laptop prices? :)), it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that part of the CXOs for startups could be coming from another country.

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Filed under job market, outsourcing, tech jobs

Attack Through Google Alerts

I use Google Alerts to monitor a few things. This is a good service and have been using it for several months now. However, today something strange happened. I received an alert and when I clicked on the link, it took me to a harmful website. Actually, it seems to take me to a different website every time the link is clicked. And one of those random sites tries to install an ActiveX control and there is no way to disable it, it keeps opening up again and again till I had to open the Task Manager and kill the program.

It is unclear if the particular website got hacked or if it’s created specifically to do this type of attack. Whatever it is, this is scary. The problem is, Google Alerts brings in alerts from various websites and since you are eager to read about those topics of interest, the general tendency would be to click the link without hesitation even if it’s an unknown website (many times unknown blogs).

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The Amazon Wii Alert

I am hoping to buy Wii from Amazon at the list price of $250.00 but it’s hard to find the product on Amazon. As soon as it’s available, it gets sold out and those few lucky people who bought a couple of them are mostly reselling for higher prices. Recently I noticed that Amazon is offering an alert service where one could register a cell phone to get an alert on the availability of Wii. So, after waiting for a few days, I finally got the alert today

“Wiis are in stock! Limited availability at 10.30am PST. Visit …” and in no time it’s over. So, I couldn’t get it this time. Hopefully I will manage to get it next time.

Interestingly, right now Wii Fit is selling more than other Wii games and even Wii itself with a rank of 3 compared to Wii’s 5.

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Filed under Wii, Wii Fit, Wii Games

Porting Perl CGI Script From Linux Apache To Windows IIS

I am a linux guy. I mean, my laptop is windows based and all, but all the development is done on Linux. I prefer Java and Swing for desktop applications and Perl or Java for Web applications. I have a perl cgi script that I had to port it to IIS because a potential customer wanted it on Windows 2003 Server with IIS.

I have a laptop with Windows Vista Home Premium and so I wanted to try and figure out how to make the cgi script to work on IIS. After a lot of searching and researching, I figured out enabling IIS, installing ActivePerl, configuring to run the perl scripts and all. This article is not about how that can be done, but about what issue I ran into when porting the script.

First I thought I had to change the “#!/usr/bin/perl” to the appropriate perl interpreter path on Windows, but the way it works in IIS is that a specific url pattern can be mapped to a handler and program of that handler is configured. So, “*.pl” can be mapped to a specific program and windows will execute that program passing the script as input. This makes life easier, no need to maintain two separate versions of the program one for each platform.

However, the key issue I ran into is the error in loading the shipped modules. In Apache, a perl script is run with the current working directory set to the directory where the script is located. So, all the other modules of the program are resolved with respect to the current working directory and as a result there is no need for any special include path setting. But in IIS, this isn’t the case. The script is executed with the current working directory (BTW, pwd in linux and chdir in Windows) set to the virtual directory of the script. So, if the script is within a folder within the virtual directory, all the modules packaged with the script won’t be found.

So, I ended up doing the following to make it work with both Apache and IIS.

At the very beginning of the script, even before the modules are loaded, I have the following code.

BEGIN {
  $SCRIPT_PATH = $ENV{PATH_TRANSLATED}; # this env variable is available in IIS and not Apache
  if($SCRIPT_PATH) {
     $SCRIPT_PATH =~ s/[^\\\/]+$//;
     push @INC,$SCRIPT_PATH;
  }
  else {
     $SCRIPT_PATH = ".";
  } 
}

That’s it. This code will include the directory of the script into the include path so that the subsequent “use” and “require” statements are resolved appropriately.

One last note. If you have file opening logic in the script using a relative path, that should also be changed to resolve it w.r.t the $SCRIPT_PATH.

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Filed under Apache, IIS, perl