Thursday, October 23, 2008

Google 4 - Microsoft 0

I've just realized that all the technology I use for the blog belongs to Google. Microsoft either doesn't have the services at all, or the Microsoft services are not up to par with Google's.

Blogging platform: I use Blogger, which was acquired by Google in 2002. While it has its own limitations (and I am considering moving to a more advanced blogging platform than Boller), Microsoft's Live Spaces is nowhere near the requirements for a professional blog. I actually like Live Spaces, but it is far behind Blogger, mainly in terms of ability to customize and extend.

Ads: I use Google's AdSense to place ads in the blog. Microsoft doesn't seem to have the ability for publishers to put ads on their sites (as far as I can tell). Microsoft has adCenter which allows advertisers to create ads (competes with Google's AdWords), but that I need the publisher's feature.

Statistics: I use Google Analytics for site usage statistics (see this post for more information). I have received a comment that Microsoft now has this service too. It is called Microsoft adCenter Analytics, and it is currently in Beta by invitation only. From reading the FAQ, the features seem comparable more or less to Google's. There is one feature that Microsoft has and Google doesn't (demographics by age, gender and occupation (not clear what is the source of the data)), and the FAQ state that "...we believe that adCenter Analytics will eventually provide the most useful Web analytic reports and customer insights on the market today,..." (not sure how eventually and today work together). Anyway - I have registered and I am in the waiting list to try it.

Search: I have now added the ability to search within the blog. I have chosen Google's search for 2 reasons: (1) Live Search doesn't currently even index the blog (even though Google found it months ago); I have now explicitly asked to add it to Live Search, we'll see how that goes. (2) Google's search supports publishing ads as part of adSense, while Live Search doesn't.

Too bad...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Search engines

I have been looking at traffic to the blog coming from search engines.

In terms of percentage of total traffic, it has grown from 14-15% in August and September, to over 21% in the first 3 weeks of October.
In terms of number of visits originating in search engines, it started with 22 in August, went up to 45 in September, and it is over 190 in the first 3 weeks of October. That is a huge growth.

Google is at 97% (the remaining 3% is, and (which I also think is powered by Google)). Live search and Yahoo! do not appear at all.
When investigating this, I found out that Live search and Yahoo do not even index the blog, even though it has been linked from other sites (such as for more than 3 months. Sigh... I have now submitted the url of the 1. Family. Friendly. Food. site to both Live search and Yahoo!. We'll see in a few weeks if it helped.

Why is search growing?
It is hard to tell for sure why October is so much bigger than the previous months. I'll continue to track and see the trends going forward. There are two reasons I can think of:
  • the blog has more and more content, and therefore more and more searches will find answers in the blog (it maps to more keywords).

  • the blog gets linked from more sites as time passes, and therefore its popularity grows and it will come up more on the first page of some searches.

Is search traffic good?
When looking at visitor loyalty, search traffic tends to be lower than the site average. The average time on site was 40% lower than the average in September (but only 10% lower than the average in October) and the number of returning visitors tends to be close to 0 (as opposed to 20-30% on average).

The advantage of having a lot of returning visitors is that once you have paid the price to gain them as a customer, they come back (so are are starting to see an ongoing flow of income from them). On the other hand, given that the cost of acquiring a customer from search is pretty much 0 (we don't have any ads to bring in people), it is still good. For example, in terms of impressions from ads, they still count regardless of how much time they spend in the site.

Next steps
Here is what I plan to do next regarding search engine traffic:

  • Look at sites that claim to increase traffic by submitting the site to lots of search engines, such as

  • Look at improving the keywords / meta tags to attract more traffic.

  • Analyze the top keywords that caused traffic to the site

  • Brainstorm changes to the site design that will help this kind of users be more loyal (stay more times / return more / subscribe to the RSS feed, etc.)

On the way to be rich

I have added ads to my blog. Not yet to 1. Family. Friendly. Food. (more about that in a separate post), but it's a start.

In the first 20 days of October I have already made $0.18. Some of you might think it's not a lot, but I can tell you that you are wrong. If I continue at this rate, it will be about $100 until I retire. As you can see, that's a lot. :-)

More info: 135 impressions, 10 clicks, 7.41 CTR, $1.31 eCPM. I only have a vague idea what these terms mean, but I am plannign to learn.

No chain letters for you!

In my previous post, I have tried to convince people to help me do some direct marketing. I wasn't expect that much (given that you guys are all a bunch of _____ [this is the part where I loose the small audience that I might have remaining]).

But still, the result was pretty much 0. Flat. No change. I won't be wearing my "glass half full" shirt tomorrow... Oh, well... Life goes on.

I'll try something more effective. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not a chain letter, but...

In one of the previous posts, I have mentioned that the main sources of traffic are direct traffic (mainly someone sending an email explaining how great a site this is), links from other sites and search engines.

The first type is not very sustainable, but before completely forgetting about it, I've decided to give it a try. And here is where you come in! I would like you to send this truly wonderful site to everyone you think might be interested, and ask them to forward it on.

Some of you might be thinking that you are not the type of person who sends chain letters! This is not the case, my friends. We are all trying to figure out how to give our kids and families good healthy food while not spending all our day in the kitchen. And we know lots of other people who are also facing the same challenges. So send them a link to 1. Family. Friendly. Food. and make them happy. And ask them to make more people happy.

"But I don't know anyone who eats or has families", some of you might say. Hmmm... That's a tough one. Really? Are you sure?

To make things more interesting, we will take some bets. Please comment on this post with either how many people you have sent an email about this, or with your guess of what spike we'll get from this exercise. My goal is 100 visitors in 1 day. Click on the image below to see the current direct traffic.

Don't procrastinate! Click send now. Let's see who will be the first to add a comment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Browser SQM?

In my previous post about statistics, I have shown all kinds of numbers about the usage of the site. I am using Google Analytics to track usage data for the site (I have checked, and Microsoft doesn't have a similar feature, at least not yet).

To enable it, you get a unique site id from your Google Analytics account (everything is free), and then add a little bit of Java Script to all your pages, and ... Google Analytics starts gathering data from all the user sessions. For each user it tracks things like their location (up to the city level), browser, network speed, etc., length of the visit, how many pages and the exact order of pages visited, if it is a new user to the site or a returning user (using a cookie), if the user is coming from a referring site (and which site), or a search (and what were the search keywords), etc.

The amounts of data are huge, and Google Analytics offers lots of predefined reports to slice and dice the data in various ways.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seriously, now

OK, so I had some fun with the Q1 FY09 financial results, but I am taking this seriously, and I need your help to succeed.

In the next posts I will start drilling down into the business and marketting side.

First Quarter Results

Bellevue, WA - October 7, 2008. 1 Family. Friendly. Food today announced first quarter revenue of $0.00 billion for the period ending September 30, 2008, a #DIV/0! increase over the same period of the prior year. Operating income for the quarter was $0.00 billion, and dilluted earnings per share were $0.00.

“We are pleased with the increasing pace of revenue growth throughout this fiscal year fueled by strong demand for our new offerings,” said the chief financial officer. “We are now accelerating our investments in the business to drive future growth, which is reflected in our financial guidance. We believe next fiscal year will deliver even stronger double-digit revenue growth than this year.”

Business Outlook
Management offers the following guidance for the quarter ending December 31, 2008:

  • Revenue is expected to be in the range of $5 to $10.
  • Operating income is expected to be in the range of $4 to $9.

Forward-Looking Statements

Statements in this release that are "forward-looking statements" are based on current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially because of factors such as:

  • challenges to our core business model;
  • intense competition in all our markets;
  • our continued ability to protect the company’s intellectual property rights;
  • claims that we have infringed the intellectual property rights of others;
  • government litigation and regulation affecting how we design and market our products;
  • our ability to attract and retain talented employees;
  • delays in product development and related product release schedules;
  • significant business investments that may not produce offsetting increases in revenue;
  • adverse results in legal disputes;
  • unanticipated tax liabilities;
  • impairment of goodwill or amortizable intangible assets causing a charge to earnings;
  • changes in accounting that may affect our reported earnings and operating income;
  • exposure to increased economic and regulatory uncertainties from operating a global business;
  • general economic and geo-political conditions;
  • natural disaster, cyber-attack or other catastrophic event disrupting our business;
  • acquisitions and joint ventures that adversely affect the business;
  • limitations on the availability of insurance and resulting uninsured losses;
  • sales channel disruption such as the bankruptcy of a major distributor;
  • implementation of operating cost structures that align with revenue growth;
  • and foreign currency, interest rate, fixed income, equity and commodity price risks.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


In this post I'll cover some of the statistics we've seen so far.

Nurit started her blog 1 Family. Friendly. Food on July 15, 2008. She posted 20 posts in July, 11 in August and 17 in September. In the past 2 months it has been about 5 posts per week.

Below is a graph showing the number of visitors over time (click to enlarge).

As you can see, excluding a peak on July 31st that I cannot explain, September looks much better than July and August, which is good. The total number of visits from unique visitors more than doubled from August (102) to September (250).

Traffic Sources
In August, 86% of the usage came from direct traffic (i.e. users going directly to the blog, usually when getting an email pointing to it), 4% from referring sites, and 10% from search engines.
In September, 46% of the usage came from direct traffic, 40% came from referring sites, and 15% from search engines.
Direct trafficReferring sitesSearch engines

This is a positive development. Direct traffic is basically my wife emailing to everyone she knows asking them to look at the blog, and similar activities (such as giving a talk about the subject in our son's daycare). While these are good to get initial traffic going, they do not scale to more than a handful of visitors. Increasing the traffic from referring sites and search engines is much more sustainable. The peak on September 23rd (28 unique visitors) is because of a comment that Nurit posted on a high traffic blog, which resulted in traffic back to 1 Family. Friendly. Food. The higher peak on September 25th (82 unique visitors) is being referred from the navigation bar at the top of the site (that one is still a bit of a mystery, but the only relevant button there is the "Next blog" one. It seems to pick a random blog, so why where there so many hits that day? The only explanation I have is that the day before Nurit added a "Powered by Blogger" gadget to her blog, and maybe that's how she got compensated...)

There are huge amounts of usage data available. In the next post, I'll talk a little about the technology used to gather data and what is available to mine.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vision and Target Audience

In order to make 1 Family. Friendly. Food. a success, one has to understand first its vision and target audience.

Nurit's primary goal is to show that it is not difficult to eat healthy homemade food. Here are the main types of posts in her blog:
  • Dinner tonight posts give easy recipes and tips for preparing dinner at home (entrĂ©e and side dishes)
  • A cake for the weekend is a collection of simple recipes for dessert. I love the smell of fresh cake when coming home from work on Friday evening!
  • In the try something new posts, Nurit dares people to expand their culinary repertoire
  • Cooking with kids tell stories on how our son is helping in the kitchen. Kids and food are some more thoughts around kids menus and teaching kids the basics of healthy eating. Those are some of my favorites.
  • Other categories of posts include reviews of good cookbooks, making good use of leftovers, some time saving kitchen tools and more.

The primary target audience of her blog are busy people, mainly families with kids. They want to eat good, nutritious food, and educate their children for a healthy life, but are pressed for time. They are looking for simple, proved solutions.

The follow up question is who is the competition and what are the characteristics of this market. I have not explicitly looked into this yet, but I will start looking into this in one of the next posts.

In the next post I plan to give an overview of what we have done so far, and the current status of the traffic to the site.

Thoughts? Send me a message or comment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Beginning

I'm starting this blog to track the progress of the blog that my wife Nurit is writing (1 Family. Friendly. Food.) from its humble start till its success (I am wearing my "half full" shirt today, so not succeeding is not an option).

My definition of success is getting a lot of traffic and being able to monetize it. My bet right now is that getting a lot of traffic will be the difficult part, monetizing that traffic should be easier.

The theory is that in order to succeed, I need to define a goal (something like $1M in revenue in 1 year), but I am an incremental guy. So I'll start with measuring the current traffic and define the first goal derived from that, and keep increasing it. Stay tuned for details in one of the next posts.

Why would you read this blog?
  • You want to see how my marketing / business efforts are going. That should be fun.
  • You want to hear my observations on the technical side of things. Don't expect too much.
  • You are bored.
  • You want to be an active participant and forever be remembered as someone who helped make this experiment a success.
  • You wonder if things are recursive, and if there is a relationship between this blog's success and Nurit's blog success.

In the next posts, I'll give a brief overview of Nurit's vision, some background of what we've done so far, where we are today, and start defining goals and strategies going forward.

Thoughts? Ideas? Send me a comment.