Posts in Business, Blogging, and Web Sites

The Absolute Best Usabilility Testing You Can Do…Free

Thanks to Scott, he made me aware of an awesome little piece of software to help do some usability testing on your site. It’s called ClickTale, and it will literally show you a video of what a user is doing on your site, among many other features. I gave it a shot on Carbon Fiber Gear to see what some people were doing on the pages where I was selling products. Wow, I can see where people are moving their mouse, what they’re clicking on, how long they look at each section, etc. It really tells me a lot about how a person uses my site, and allows me to design accordingly. Check out this video that explains the whole thing:

ClickTale has a free package that offers 100 recordings every week (400/month). Simply sign up, place some code in your header and footer, and you’re good to go. Anything over that will cost you…but if your site isn’t very big, it’s more than enough.

Keep in mind there are some privacy concerns regarding this. According to ClickTale’s own terms of service, you’re required to disclose in your privacy agreement that you’re using it.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Did you find out anything new about your readers/customers?

Officially DavePit.com : Learn To Migrate Your Site To A New Domain

I’ve made the official migration for this site from DavidPitlyuk.com to DavePit.com. You’ll see that all URL’s will redirect to the new URL. You’ll also notice that all URL’s are now shorter!? For example the post for the 2009 Nissan 370Z used to be:

http://www.davepit.com/2008/11/17/2009-nissan-370z-first-thoughts/

Now it is:

http://www.davepit.com/2009-nissan-370z-first-thoughts/

The new domain name is part of the migration that I had announced when I launched this new design. My next task will be to work on cleaning up all of the categories, and the posts within them.

For those interested in how I did the migration, in case you are interested in doing the same…I will provide the steps I took:

Backup Files

The easiest/fastest way for me to do this was to login via Telnet/SSH (I use Putty as the software to do this). Go to the directory you need to backup, and then type

tar cvf filename.tar .

This will back everything up in the directory to a .tar file. Simply download that tar file and reupload to your new server. On the new server, you’ll want to untar it by using this command in the same directory:

tar xvf filename.tar .

This will untar all of your files onto the new server. Trust me, doing this is MUCH faster then downloading all of your files via FTP.

WordPress Configuration

I was doing everything on the same server, so I didn’t have to do anythign with the database. If you are using a different server, you’ll have to backup your database, and then restore it on the new servers database.

Since I was doing everything on the same server, I simply logged into WordPress, went to settings, and changed the domain names to davepit.com. This changed the database config to the new domain, and automatically started calling the files on the davepit.com domain.

While in the WordPress admin, I also updated these:

  • All In One SEO Tool plugin – Renamed everything as needed
  • Sitemaps plugin – Rebuilt the sitemap for the site to map the correct domain

Update Template Files

Go into all of your template files, and make sure to change any references you have from the old domain to the new domain.

Update Old Domain References In Content

You could go through your SQL database files and replace any references of your old domain to your new domain…but an even easier way is to use the search-regex plug found here. The plugin once installed allows you to search for anything in your content and replace it with something else. I simply searched for all the references to images using the old domain, and replaced them with davepit.com. Same thing with links. Now all of your content is calling the right files.

.htaccess Configuration

You’ll want to update your .htacess configuration on both domains to make sure you’re URLs are doing what they are supposed to. To get all of the old url schemas shorter, I added this line (Thanks WPRecipes!):

RedirectMatch 301 /([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/(.*)$ http://www.davepit.com/$4

This will ensure any links that are going to the old URL’s automatically redirect to the new ones. Plus, it will allow the search engines to know the pages have moved, and start indexing the correct new URL’s without punishing me (since there is no page not found errors). While I’m at it, I also set the domain up to always redirect to www.davepit.com, even if you go to just davepit.com. The code for that is below:

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^davepit\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.davepit.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Now we’ve got DavePit.com all setup…but we want to make sure people that are still going to DavidPitlyuk.com get redirected. Simple!? I setup a .htaccess file on davidpitlyuk.com with the following code:

Redirect 301 / http://www.davepit.com/

Perfect!? Now our URL’s are going to the right places!

Google Webmaster Tools

You’ll want to setup the new domain on Google Webmaster Tools so Google can appropriately crawl and index your content.

Thanks to Mubs from Suffolk Software for some of the help in figuring out the above work.

Off To Southern France For A Week

I’ll be leaving tomorrow for a week at the French Riviera. More specifically, I’ll be in the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat area of Southern France:

Its tranquillity and warm climate make it a favourite holiday destination amongst European aristocracy and international millionaires. It is one of the loveliest places on the Mediterranean coast.

I will have internet access down there, so I should be posting some nice pictures and video. Overall, it will just be a time of relaxing, and trying to disconnect.

Pepperjam Announces Exclusive Partnership with eBay Partner Network

I’m just going to post the press release for ease of use about this latest announcement…see some of my comments below:

Pepperjam proud to announce that their affiliate network has officially partnered with the eBay Partner Network to bring eBay??s links and graphics to Pepperjam??s affiliates!

Stay tuned for access to eBay??s large selection of advanced links, widgets, and more. If you have any specific requests for the eBay Affiliate Program on Pepperjam Network please contact ebay@pepperjammanagement.com.

HIGHLIGHTS: Make up to 75% of all the transactions and up to an additional $35 for every new active user you send to eBay. Pepperjam has in place a dedicated eBay affiliate management team to work with you in real-time to maximize your eBay revenue. Learn more about our aggressive commission structure by logging-in to your Pepperjam Network account.

About the eBay Partner Network and Pepperjam Partnership:

It will come as no surprise that eBay is The World??s Online Marketplace?, enabling trade on a local, national and international basis. With a diverse and passionate community of individuals and small businesses, eBay offers an online platform where millions of items are traded each day. Founded in 1995, eBay Inc. connects hundreds of millions of people around the world every day, empowering them to explore new opportunities and innovate together. eBay Inc. does this by providing the Internet platforms of choice for global commerce, payments and communications. Since its inception, eBay Inc. has expanded to include some of the strongest brands in the world, including eBay, PayPal, Skype, Shopping.com, and others.

Coupling access to the unparalleled scope of eBay??s global marketplace with industry-leading tools and a dedicated support staff, the eBay Affiliate Program on Pepperjam Network offers success to all types of publishers, from the casual blogger to the experienced Internet entrepreneur. The eBay Partner Network is one of the most profitable affiliate programs in existence today, paying affiliates up to $35 per active new user, and 75% of its revenue on hundreds of categories of products.

I’ll have more information in the future, but I’m very curious about this. For one, I hope it fixes some of the problems I’ve been having with revenue. I don’t really understand the reasoning behind this as I thought eBay moved off of Commission Junction to their in-house network…not just to allow another third party network. There are two major benefit potentials that I see:

  1. Pepperjam will have a dedicated ebay contact that affiliates can go to. Since eBay has been extremely uncommunicative to its affiliates, this could have some real potential.
  2. Pepperjam was able to increase the minimum revenue by a few % points and $1 on new sign ups from eBay’s own program.

I’m an affiliate through Pepperjam Network, but I haven’t really used it yet. I’ve heard great things about them, so we’ll see how things go. The only problem now is that affiliate links will have to be re-coded again, and we’ll have to wait for BANS to update their code to allow the Pepperjam codes to be integrated.

StumbleUpon Badge For Your Use

I’ve recently been spending a lot of time working on the new design for this blog (Which I hope to launch as soon as next week!). One of the parts I was working on was a “promote” feature, where I could choose to put some sort of social media promotional button on the top headline of a post in order to better promote people “voting” for a post. I was planning on using your standard Digg badge that we’ve seen everywhere, but then I really thought about something that bothered me about Digg.

I’ve had posts that generate a good amount of Digg’s, but they happen over time. Digg works more like a popular “news” site in the fact that content has to be Dugg enough times within usually 24 hours or less to make it on the front page. That why I really like StumbleUpon.

It can literally take just one stumble to get content to generate some good traffic. Then say two months later, somebody else randomly stumbles your post…traffic can generate again. It’s not always just a one-time surge, it usually lasts a few days, and then can continue to bring traffic over time. For this reason, I decided to give it a shot and promote StumbleUpon over Digg for this section (for now). I wanted to use an SU badge, but there wasn’t really anything out there…so I made one:

StumbleUpon badge

It follows the same design as the Digg badge so that people recognize it and are more willing to click it. Feel free to use this on your site if you’d like. I will probably do a couple of sizing variations, while I’ll update on this post in the future.

If you have seen or made a StumbleUpon badge, feel free to let me know so I can link to it from here.

Also, feel free to add me as a friend on StumbleUpon, you can find my profile here. I sometimes forget to stumble things, but I generally try to if I really like something I see on the net.

Oh, and make sure to Stumble this post :)

The Easiest Way To Get A $10k-$100k Cash Loan

First Again logoWhile the title of this post may seem like this would be some sort of paid review, I am actually writing about a company from personal experience. I love to speak out about companies that I have good experiences with, because I want others to do the same.

Many of us are business owners, or people that are thinking about starting a business. Many times cash is a hurdle, and many times getting somewhere between $10,000-$100,000 is enough to overcome that hurdle. Or say you want to buy a car, dealing with your bank or a company like Capital One Auto Finance can be a huge hassle, especially if you’re not buying from a dealership, as there is a lot of back and forth.

When I was buying my Dodge Viper, I was also selling my Corvette at the same time. Since I wanted to pay cash for the Viper, I also wanted to make sure I had a safety net of money in case it would take me longer than I thought with my Corvette. I started to look for a loan option with a low APR, and came across a company by the name of First Again. The concept behind this loan company is awesome, and here’s why:

  • You can only get approved for a loan if you have excellent credit
  • Since they only accept people with excellent credit, it enables you to get way lower rates. I got at least 3% lower than what I could find for a used car from an actual person.
  • It doesn’t matter what you use the loan for. You can use it to finance your business, buy a car, pay your credit card bills, do home improvements, etc. They call it an AnythingBill.
  • Your loan comes in the form of cash. You don’t have to get a check to write out to a particular person or play any sort of waiting games.
  • If you apply for a loan, and get approved, they transfer money to you right away. I literally applied for a $10,000 loan, got approved, and the next day I had $10,000 extra in my bank account. This was a huge selling point for me.
  • There are no fees for paying the loan off early. I ended up selling my Corvette two weeks after getting the loan…I simply paid off the total loan right away, ended up paying that first months interest, and that was that. It was quite cheap for the peace of mind that I took the loan out for.

This was by far the best loan experience I’ve ever had, and I can easily personally recommend First Again for your next loan.

If you have any other companies that you recommend, post a comment and let me know (let me know why as well)…or if you’ve used First Again, let me know your thoughts.

Above And Beyond Customer Service Experience

Some of you may remember the horrible shopping experience I had a couple weeks back when trying to buy an exhaust for my Viper. I ended up buying the catback exhaust, as well as high flow cats from PartsRack…who specializes specifically in Vipers. The owner, Jon, went out of his way in all aspects of the sale to really help me out and make sure I was getting everything I needed.

He kept me up to date, and gave me various options to help reduce costs of shipping. On top of that he gave me a multi-part discount, and threw in an extra little freebie part I had asked for ($40 value). I received a call a day later letting me know the high flow cat I had ordered that he had was actually damaged (didn’t affect the performance), and that he would give me the better/more expensive ones (which cost over $100 more) at no cost if I wanted. While I appreciated the offer, I decided to wait it out because the more expensive ones would give a raspier sound…and wouldn’t make a difference performance wise unless I was pushing out over 650hp.

I received e-mails with tracking numbers, it was pretty much everything I wanted out of an online purchase. The above and beyond experience is when I received an envelope in the mail which included this:

Viper freebies from PartsRack

Jon had sent me some freebies, a little Blue/White Dodge Viper keychain, diecast toy, and sticker. This was awesome, considering that’s my actual car! The business card included said “Compliments of JonB at PartsRack”. This is going above and beyond, and while this little package may have cost Jon like $10 or whatever, it will definitely keep me as a customer…and I will recommend him to others. We can see it was enough for me to make a post about it!

While this is not something I would expect every retailer to do, I think it’s definitely something that niche retailers should think about. PartsRack sells parts specifically for Vipers, his business is considered very niche. It’s important to do things like this to stay in-tune with your customers. Sometimes not being a huge retailer, Jon may not be able to offer the best prices, but he knows his stuff and can make sure you are ordering what you need, and you will get taken care of.

Well done Jon! I know I’ve learned something.

The New eBay Partner Network Potentially Has Major Issues

On April 1st eBay moved off of Commission Junction, and onto their own platform for managing their affiliate program. Their new platform goes by the name of “eBay Partner Network” (EPN). This was potentially a great move by eBay, offering more direct support, better reporting, better tools, more customized administration, etc.

Now it’s 15 days into the new program, and from what I’ve seen, there are some potentially major problems going on with the program in the name of revenue earned by its affiliates.

Revenue Issues

The biggest issue seems to be the amount of revenue generated as compared to the previous CJ program. My own personal experience shows the same issue. I normally generate at least 1 transaction per day, and average about $2-$5+ per day. I converted my links over to the new program on April 1st, I didn’t see my first transaction until April 10th. It’s now April 15th, and I’ve generated 6 transactions for a total of $6.80 or a $2.27 EPC. On Commission Junction I would generate about $10-$15 EPC. So we’re talking about a pretty drastic difference here. I don’t want to come to any conclusions based on my experience just yet as I’d like to wait it out until the end of the month. Expect an update to this from my end come early May.

This seems to be quite a bigger issue, and eBay seems to be somewhat ignoring it. If you take a look at their partner network forum, it just has a ton of posts with people complaining that their revenue is way lower than what it was on CJ. One thread with the title “Has anybody seen and commissions or leads yet?” has 237 posts (at the time of this writing). eBay representatives have responded, basically saying that there is no problem, but they will continually monitor everything to make sure nothing is wrong.

I don’t like to use myself as an example for the issue since I really don’t do that much in affiliate sales just yet, but I’m happy to use others to prove a point:

Username flyinglotta: This user is one of the bigger affiliates posting on the forums, that was doing about $500/day when the program was on Commission Junction. He is now seeing a 50% drop, doing about $250/day, a loss of close to $8,000/month. You would think that an affiliate generating this much would be able to get some sort of personal support from eBay, but he can’t even get a direct e-mail address or phone number to get help. He’s forced to wait on public answers on the forum from representatives that probably need to have a lawyer go over any response they give before they post it.

My other concern in this realm is that there is no third party anymore. What I mean by this is that there is no company overlooking to make sure commissions are accurately paid out and tracked for. Essentially an auditor. eBay could realistically just do whatever they want and pay whatever they want, and nobody could really argue with that. Commission Junction was the third party before.

Contact Issues

There are all sorts of stories similar to this not only on the eBay forums, but also on other forums. One of the arguments eBay is using is that there are thousands of affiliates, and relative to that number, not enough seem to be contacting them with issues to make it an issue. The other side of this story is that not everybody is complaining on their forums, and there is not exactly an obvious way to contact eBay.

The forum link is only on the dashboard homepage. Not everybody wants to post publicly. There is no “Contact” link of any kind in the admin section…making it a bit hard for somebody to complain. The only thing that I have found to contact eBay directly was to go into the help section, click a category, which will also have a link to contact them if it doesn’t answer your question. I did this earlier this month, only to receive a canned response that didn’t answer my question, and was obviously outsourced and not somebody directly working in the program.

Report Issues

I think there is a lot of room for improvement on the reports that eBay offers. Now that everything is in-house, reporting capabilities should be way better in terms of tracking where links are coming from, what is being bid on, where they clicked to bid, etc. I don’t want to get into this right now because eBay seems to be working to continually improve the program, and I have a feeling this will be worked in the future as there are now more affiliates to give feedback.

Are There Really Issues?

I think this is the question of the day. I think there are generally enough complaints from people that literally have switched over and are seeing lower numbers after the switch to say that there is a problem. At this point in time, it’s less about the affiliates like me who think there are issues as I don’t do high enough numbers to make an example…but some of the bigger guys seeing a difference and complaining should say something is up. I think for the smaller guys, we should give it the full month before starting to really complain there is an issue.

For now, those of you having issues, please respond to this post with a comment (there is no need to register, so it’s easy to post) and give a little background on the issue you’re having. The most important information you should post is the following:

When did you change your links to the new program?
What were you averaging per day in February and March 2007?
What was your EPC for Feb and Mar 2007?
What kind of results comparatively have you been seeing in the new program?

Maybe if enough people respond and comment, and compile it one place, we can take it to eBay and make some changes.

College Humor Does An Ad Takeover Right

Yesterday I went to go take a look at the original content section of College Humor videos, as they produce some pretty good high quality stuff like the popular internet comments in a boardroom series. When I went to the video, I noticed that the page had done an ad takeover for AirTranU.com, which is a flight standby program specifically for people between the ages of 18-22 aka college kids.

By doing an ad takeover, there were quite a few elements that took place (That I noticed):

  • The background was changed to match the AirTran U branding (blue)
  • The AirTran U logo was placed next to the College Humor logo
  • The AirTran U logo is provided along the right and left rails of the page
  • The video is surrounded by the actual “ad”, promoting a contest to offer free flights until you’re 23 from AirTran U.
  • Prior to the video playing (pre-roll), there was a quick few second branding spot with the AirTran U logo stating that the video was brought to you by them.
  • After the video was finished (post-roll), it automatically went to a 15 second commercial for AirTran U.
  • Everything, including the background, was clickable.
  • The only thing that didn’t seem to work was the 300×250 ad spot just said “Loading Advertisement”. I’m assuming either the 300×250 ad from AirTran U was not working, or they didn’t have one, so did not load an ad for competitive separation/exclusivity reasons.

Here’s a screenshot of the page, feel free to click it to see the full version:

College Humor ad takeover

I have to say that this ad takeover was really done right. It was very effective to me as a consumer from a performance, targeting, and branding perspective. On top of that, it also looks good. I definitely noticed the ad/brand (enough for me to write this article!), and ended up clicking through just to see what it was all about. I wonder what the cost of a takeover like this is, and what the CPM works out to be. Anybody in the industry care to chime in?? It would be interesting to see more of this in the blogosphere, as long as it’s done right.

What are your thoughts?? Is it too much?

Google Analytics Adds Day/Week/Month Graphs Finally

Do you think that Google may have read my “How Google Analytics Can Be Dramatically Improved” post from back in October? Even if they didn’t Google released an update to Analytics that included this, and possibly other features (anybody else notice anything??)! There is a beta label next to it, but you can now view your graph by day, week, and month…instead of just day:

New Google Analytics chart

New Google Analytics chart

A simple improvement, that makes a drastic difference. Thank you Google…it’s about time.

Update: Apparently you can see hourly charts too…as seen here and here.