Posts

Showing posts from 2007

The Dip

Michael Gray sent me a couple books this holiday season (again, thanks Michael), and I'm finding it to be quite motivational. Today, I came across a bit of brilliance contained within. (Sorry about the lack of formatting due to my mobile blogging.)"Many organizations make sure they've dotted all their i's -- they have customer service, a receptionist, a convenient location, and on and on -- and all of it is mediocre. More often than not, prospects choose someone else -- their competition. Those competitors can't perform in some areas, but they're exceptional in the ones that matter."It is so true that excelling in some areas can make up for lacking in others. So now we all just need to go excel at those things that matter. Easier said than done, but very profitable when you get it right.

I got a Porsche for Christmas

Image
My dad got me a shiny new Porsche for Christmas. Actually, it was a 500GB L.A. Porsche designed hard drive from Lacie that he bought through Amazon. Faster for data access, but not so fast at getting me to work. Still, this is pretty sleek and shiny, and that's what matters when picking out your Porsche, right?

I guess I'll have to wait for the real Porsche for a while yet. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy my 500 gigs of external storage.

Maybe next year... hint, hint.

Much more clever than Wikipedia...

Image
For those of you that don't particularly care for wikipedia (as many in the seo crowd don't), and are clever enough to come up with play-on-word type posts, I'd invite you to head over and check out Falsipedia.com.

This site is based on the same software, but has such educational materials as Cranberry uses, the definition of "Tough Cookie", and Grape Nehi. Seriously, how can the wiki compete with articles like those?

2007

Thinking back on 2007, there are lots of things I got done that I never really intended at the start of the year. For example, creating www.honestbargain.com for my dad wasn't really on my list as the year began. Having a show on WebmasterRadio.fm wasn't, either. In fact, I didn't really see the point of audio content on the web then. Now, I've got several podcasts and my son (5 years old) started one as well.Probably the biggest surprise to me, however, is my sense of wanting to help out with local organizations whereever I can. I volunteered just last week to build a site for the local tennis association. Last year, I was just happy to get back to playing.I have also been told that I've grown quite a bit professionally this year. I intend to keep that trend going and really look forward to what 2008 and beyond has in store for me.

Blogging via cell

Since most of my ideas pop up when I'm AFK, I am going to try blogging from my cell phone. This is mostly a test post, but also an explanation of why my future posts may be shorter and more to the pont when compared to some of my prior ones.

New NPMMO Website

NPMMO (Nebraska People Making Money Online) now has a website. I haven't put much on it yet, but you can view it at npmmo.org. If you forget and do .com, I have that registered as well.

In any event, I just wanted to announce the new site and ask for some input on it. If anyone wants to contribute a better logo or make content suggestions for the site, I'm all ears.

NPMMO

Next week, I'm organizing the NPMMO meeting (Nebraska People Making People Online). We're going to talk about optimizing your site for search engines, but rather than a boring speech, I'm going to ask for sites to take a look at from members and we're going to go over them giving suggestions along the way. At SES, this is known as a Site Clinic, but we're not going to charge $1800 to attend this. :)

If you're in the Omaha area and can make it, please RSVP here and plan on attending. Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot early.

1 of 1 Billion

Image
Apparently, ToolBarn.com is 1 page out of 1 Billion plus on the internet discussing tools. I'm sure there are lots of types of tools (web tools, power tools, photo tools, hand tools, blogging tools, David, etc.), but today Google says we're the best when it comes to tools. Thanks, Google. I appreciate the compliment.


Now, if I could just get those people to buy something. Yeah, head term conversion rates stink, but they're sure nice for branding. It's also causing yet more server load issues, so it's really good we went memcached heavy over the past few weeks so we can handle it without a terrible load on the database server.

That leads to the question... now that I've hit the biggest target in our industry, where do I go from here? The joys of doing SEO well on a big site. :)

SEO and Nascar - Both about balance

I was listening to a Nascar podcast on my way in to work today and realized something. They always talk about the balance of a racecar to get optimal performance, and SEO is no difference.

If a racecar is too tight, it won't turn. If your SEO is too tight, you won't be able to change directions quickly either.

If a racecar is too loose, the back end comes out. If your SEO is too loose, you get a lot of tail action but don't lock in on the main terms.

If you get the best balance, your site takes first place and your racecar goes to the lead.

Funny how much of life is about balance, and it's funny I hadn't noticed the similarities before. Oh, and both require lots of attention to the details and fine tuning once you get to the track... er... web.

Minor drawback with Memcached

Today, we had an XML process change so invalid XML was being returned (or changed invalid XML, because it's always invalid, but we had a fix for the prior version). Instead of just affecting us while the bad data was being returned, it actually lasted a little while longer. Why? Because we use memcached to store the result, lessening the load on our inventory management system.

While it isn't normally an issue (most people don't deal with this oddball system), if we were storing those results longer than we had been, this could have been a huge issue. It was rendering product pages non-functional, which isn't a good thing.

As a result of this, we're going to start doing more error checking and trapping. Oh what fun it is to deal with systems that don't care about being valid in the slightest and having Perl modules that require it.

Another server upgrade

Getting ready for the holiday season means beefing up our infrastructure around here. So, I got to order a new box for Memcached. It was even a simple server, just two dual-core processors with dual 250 gig drives from Sun running Enterprise Linux.

What's fun about it, though, is that it has 32 gigs of RAM from the start (once I drop the chips into the box, anyway) and is upgradeable to 64 gigs. Now that's fun. I figure that going from the 4 gigs on one server we were running last week to 4 gigs on 3 servers we were running this week to 2 gigs on 3 servers plus 30 gigs on a dedicated box we'll be running in a couple weeks means we're going to be set for some serious growth. Now it's time to plan for a happy holiday season. At least our website shouldn't go black come black Monday.

How well will this work?

Image
I'm not a headset fan. I'm not a phone fan, either. So I'm playing around today with a bluetooth headset on my PC, seeing if I can get that to work with Skype. If it works well, the radio show on Thursday should be interesting. I could wander around the office and talk if I so choose. Could be fun. :)

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Image
I've had a few days off for some testing, and that gave me some time to reflect on what I'm doing and what I had hoped to accomplish by this point of my life.

I never really got into the usual hero type hopes as a kid. I rarely, if ever, dreamed of being a police officer, firefighter or in the military. My dreams were much different.

I wanted to be a mad scientist. I even enrolled in ChemE at UNL, which I didn't realize until recently was part of that mad scientist dream. But as I started taking those classes, I realized I didn't really have anything I wanted to do with that career path... I just thought it sounded interesting (I was wrong there) and I had heard it paid well.

Along I went into Management Training at Radio Shack. That was pretty short lived, too. I realized that the 70 - 80 hour weeks that were expected at the time for under $20k/year salary as a starting manager wasn't really what I wanted, and I ended up getting kicked out shortly before completing t…

Need some feedback

Image
Once again, we've made lots of changes at ToolBarn. But now, I'm looking for some feedback.

We've got a cache on our local servers of what most of the competing sites are priced at on every product we offer. If we show that, similar to Progressive Auto Insurance, are we asking for trouble?

Two thoughts on why we should:
1) Establish ourselves as a destination.
2) Give our customers less reason to leave our site and look around.

Two thoughts on why we should not:
1) We may not always have the lowest price.
2) We've got more traffic than most of these sites, so we'd be building their brand for them.

Such a tough choice. We'll probably run an experiment at some point and see what it does. What do you think?

Where's my VRML?

Anyone remember when VRML was being touted as the "2D Web Killer"? I do. I laughed back then... of course, it was more because I thought nobody would take the time to learn it and that it'd be tough to get WYSIWYG web designers to ever consider.

Well, here we are years later. People are still programming flat (although 2.0 sites try lots of 3D shadows and the like) websites without that whole 3D interactive world. Granted, in 1998 I did play around with some 3D interactive stuff like this, but nothing like some of the VRML sites that came out that you could walk around to different buildings and the like.

While I still think there's a place for that (Second Life seems like a possibility, but it's much more flexible in an app you run), I don't see it happening any time soon. Oh, and this post can be credited to my bookcase, where I noticed one of the titles "Java, CGI, VRML and SGML". I think my wife got that one for a web development class once and sh…

Servers and setups

Image
Today, I was realizing I haven't done a post in a while, and I also got a new camera from the recent Woot-off. Combine those, and I got pictures of some geeky things.



First off, above is my podcasting setup. I don't have everything mounted in my new rack from Rack Solutions yet, but you can see the stuff I regularly use right now. That cost a few pennies over the years. :)



Secondly, those are the servers we use for ToolBarn. We have 1 more Google Mini that we'll be adding shortly to this mess, making 12U of our 13U being used and 1U for storing the external drives we swap out weekly for off-site backups as well as pass-through to one of the switches (we ran out of room on the back for those.)



Finally, that mess is my desk at work. I regularly get working on too many things at once and can't really keep up on things. However, the dual screens are almost a necessity now, and I have a matching 22" at home along with a really nice 20" Samsung. I remember in the old …

Skype - are you broken?

We've been doing SEO 101 on Webmasterradio.fm for a while now, and we've been using Skype to do it. Today, as we get ready for one of our biggest guest names to date, Skype refuses to connect. I can't even pull their site up in a reasonable time.

So what gives, Skype? I mean, quality had been slowly dropping over the past few weeks, but this is ridiculous. I connect for a bit, it drops, says connecting, connects for a few seconds, drops the connection and the loop begins again.

So, as I type this, I've actually dialed out to NeO. However, it keeps going through that loop. What's up with that? This isn't going to work very well.

Update: I did locate something here about it. Nice... 12 - 24 hours? That's a bit longer than I can wait for this particular call.

Mobile Development

I started developing a mobile site for our local contractor customers yesterday. We'll see how it does, but so far I've managed to find a neat tool to view what it'll look like. Actually, you can view any site in it as it would be viewed in Opera Mini.

For someone developing a site and not wanting to use a mobile device constantly to test it, this is great. Now, I just need to figure out what I want to show them for sure.

WebmasterRadio.FM show

I've been rather busy lately. We hired some new programmers at work, which have both been working out great. We're all excited at work, because I'm finally going to have some time to look at strategy again instead of being caught up in details.

I've also been busy with the podcasts. They were going well enough that we now have 2 podcasted shows each week on WebmasterRadio.FM (Monday and Wednesday at noon central), followed by a live show on Thursdays. Of course, this means I want to get the process down so it sounds as professional as possible, but it's really tough when trying to get that many done along with having a full time job and two young boys that want to be a part of my life.

Top that off with a PC that crashed and it's tough doing much else, so my blogs have suffered. I'm not gone, this blog isn't dead, I'm just busy right now. I'm hoping that all settles down someday, but it probably won't.

Nerdiness Check - Nerd God

Image
Ok, so I've always maintained that the difference between a geek and a nerd is where the decimal falls in the paycheck. So I guess they didn't ask the question to get that right, but still, Nerd God sounds really, well... nerdy.

Carolyn (cshel) tagged me to take the nerd quiz, and only 1% are nerdier than I. Of course, she probably knew that before she tagged me.

So, to keep the tradition going, I'll tag NeO, Rumblepup, Matt Griffith and My Dad.

Google Product Search results still in index.

Image
Checking to see if some new products we added to the site were indexed yet, I came across another "oversight" on Google. A while back, it was reported that Google hadn't excluded www.google.com/products after the switch from froogle to Google Product Search, but today I found results which have been updated and are excluded by robots.txt but still in their index.

As you can see in the image below, print.google.com/products, which mirrors the GPS results, still shows in the SERPs, meaning those of us listed in Google Product Search are getting credit for some links from Google.com, but also that they have Search Results showing in Search Results again, which is something they told us they don't want anyone else to do.



Not only are there a few URL's listed, there are 219,000 URL's listed. Also, it appears to be updated recently since new products we've added in the past several days are showing up. Yet, when I check the robots.txt file, /products? is disallow…

Scraping at an impressive speed

Image
We started a new blog. It received the first links yesterday, right after the first article was published. Less than 2 hours later, the first scraper had hit it and posted our original content on a spammy site. Impressive.

Twitter and their errors

Image
Ok, so the 500 Internal Server Error was funny. Well, this upgrade message is funny, too.



Hmmm... something like this could work well on our new site. ;)

First AJAX steps implemented

Image
I got the first step of the checkout process Ajaxified today on the live site. Because of all the issues I could cause by installing Norton, disabling JavaScript, etc. that I'm actually just giving "Helpful hints" if some input is wrong. For example, an invalid postal code or an invalid email address.

Now I get to start checking for valid postal addresses and trying the same thing. A bit trickier, and a lot more possible instances. For example, is it valid, not valid, valid with multiple matches or invalid with multiple matches? Now, how do I convey all those messages? Should prove interesting.

Woot makes me feel empty

Image
I've been watching closely for that BOC on Woot for the past 2 days. Now, the woot-off is done, and all I have to show for it is an airplane (that'll be fun with my boys) and a monkey.

Yes, I got a monkey. No, you can't have it. But I still haven't been able to buy a BOC, and having a woot-off without a BOC didn't feel as fulfilling. Sure, it was still fun seeing all sorts of junk flying by on my screen, but c'mon, where's the BOC?

What's up with that, woot? :(

Triple Mini

Image
Now that we're going to put our current back-end into a new site, it turned out to be the perfect time to buy another mini. We'll have two v2 minis running for ToolBarn and a v1 mini on the new site. That'll make load balancing much less of a headache.

Also interesting is that they no longer include the print books with the machine, instead giving a CD with the instructions. Seems much smarter to me. Oh, and they now have a 30 day trial. Excellent.

I look forward to experimenting with the price range search on the v2, so overall this should be a great upgrade. I'm pretty happy with the $2k we spent this week.

What is this?

A .gov.cn with parasite hosting? And it is ranking for our name? Huh? Actually, this isn't even that complicated to be considered parasite... or is it?

I really don't get why this is here, but it was in the SERPs for the ToolBarn name and seems to be an open proxy via CGI. Why do people leave these things lying around? Are they that clueless?

All Hail Brian

Image
Bow to me, like Epiar.

Their comments just made me laugh on this image. Thanks, Ken and company. :)

Hitwise got sold...

Hmmm... I'm familiar with Experian, but I had no idea they were looking at Hitwise. The full announcement can be read here.

It sounds like most of the people that have been there are staying. It should be interesting to see if this improves the service at all (more backing to get more data) or if it'll stay where it's at. I can always dream, can't I?

Yet another SERP look?

Image
Ok, so I don't usually pay that much attention to the look of the SERPs on Google. I've noticed the yellow, noticed the 50 results earlier today, but I got a funky new look tonight. Blue lines and no background color for the ads. I wish they'd pick a look already and get on with it. Oh, and clicking on the image will give a clearer view.



This one just seemed creepy to me. I didn't like it at all, mostly because it's so chopped up. Oh, well... it's their site to mess up I guess.

One other change that was noticed on this version: No links for the other Google services above the search box, and it doesn't show me as logged in (or able to log in).

Final thing I just noticed... on the "Standard" results, I show 294M results for the two word phrase power tools. With this new look, I only get 20M results. What happened to the other 274M?

Google is messing with my mind...

Image
Google started showing 50 results today on search result pages for me. I've never changed it from default, as I want to see what a "typical" searcher sees, so when it kept scrolling and scrolling I was confused. Is this another UI test? If so, I give it a thumbs down. I know how to change it to show 50 or 100, but I choose 10. Showing me 50 with the yellow ads is too many changes for me. Baaahh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

500 Internal Server Error? Nice.

Image
I tried going to twitter's homepage today and got a 500 Internal Server Error. For a moment, I wasn't sure what I was looking at (it was one of the many tabs that started with my browser), but it was sure a lot more entertaining than the traditional 500 error.



On a side note, it looks like my blog post yesterday got the attention of Hitwise. My account got unlocked. I think it was probably through a google alert or similar, because I don't think they normally read my blog. Thanks for the responsiveness, guys.

Thanks, Hitwise

Image
I was doing some work today and was trying to pull some stuff up, planning on side-by-side of us vs. our competitors in Hitwise. I got to the point of logging in on one screen, and got the following error message (you may need to click to read the larger image).



What happened? I was using Internet Explorer. Normally, I log in under FireFox. Since I've logged in on our CEO's PC during a meeting once, from our conference room during a few meetings and my own PC, I'm not allowed to log in on more machines. To top that off, IE and FF on the same machine is considered 2 machines as well.

Ok, so now what happens if I clear my cookies? Does that mean I won't be able to log in on my PC at all? Doesn't seem like a real friendly way to let me use the service we paid quite a bit for.

EDIT: After coming back later, I found that I can't log in via FireFox, either. I guess we paid for a service I can't use any more. Time to make a phone call.

RE-EDIT: The next morning, the a…

ToolBarn.com - We've got fans!

I've been a fan of many things in the past, but we now have a fan of our own. You can see it in the video below.

New Yawk

I'm heading out to New York next week. I'll be speaking on two panels now, both on Thursday. Shopping Search Tactics and the Retailer Forum. Should be a fun time, and I'm looking forward to catching up with some friends. I'm also anticipating having some business deals worked out while I'm there, making for some interesting weeks when I return. :)

I guess I'll see how it goes, but boy do I enjoy SES.

What happens when...

Image
What happens when you let a few computer geek types loose to run the marketing department? Well, that's what we've been doing at ToolBarn for a while, so it's been interesting. For example, the homepage now has some rotating buttons on it, which you can see here.

First off, the very boring, I'm a geek look:



Second, a little medical humor:



Third, the off-colored humor approach:



Fourth, the "We need lightning" button:



And finally, the "Get a bigger tool" button:



I'm not saying they're all terrible, but I think this is maybe why we need a graphic artist's help in doing some marketing materials. After all, we're just a bunch of geeks.

Why not to do April Fools pranks online

Image
Those of you who enjoy a good joke, remember that there may be repercussions from your actions. Not only in terms of reputation, but also in terms of links / SERPs / business.

Take, for example, a couple days ago. We didn't do anything special for ToolBarn. A couple of our competitors did "Funny" things. We saw one of our best Sunday sales totals ever. For that, I've got to thank them.

But sometimes the joke bites back at you for days afterwards. For example, today's #1 result for "seo blog" on google.


Yes, Mr. Cutts did a nice "Hacked" theme for the day, and two days later we're seeing the Hacked SERPs. You'd think he would have known enough to cloak that so his SERP description didn't lessen his credibility. All in all, not the best planning I've seen.

AuctionAds - Great concept, needs some work

Image
First off, I love the idea behind AuctionAds. I have talked to Jeremy a bit and know more than I probably should about how their system works. At this point, however, I'm discontinuing my use of the service.

For some sites, it's not a big deal to display whatever shows up. For a commercial site, that's not the case.

Our theory was simple. If someone searches on ToolBarn.com for a phrase where we have zero results, show them AuctionAds results to try monetizing that traffic. On the surface, it sounded great.

When we started getting complaints on some of the results, we started digging a little deeper. The tests I had done last week were all fairly decent. Talking with Jeremy, I understand that queries that don't get done too often won't have decent results. But when results like pictured below started to show up, I had to pull the plug.



Since it's tough to see, here's a zoom on the block in question.



Now, I don't know how many sites have had a similar idea, o…

What makes a woot woot?

Image
How is it that woot got to be so popular that showing a brown paper bag on their site immediately crashes their servers? Ok, so they don't crash, but they don't respond because of the DOS caused by everyone trying to purchase all at once. Of course, if it were hosted over dialup, that wouldn't be so impressive. But they're not, and I don't get it.

How did woot get to be so popular while upsetting so many people when they can't buy something? Ok, so I'm mostly speaking out of frustration, but there are some real issues going on.

For example, during the Woot-off last week there were plenty of times I couldn't get it to load. At one point, I saw a BOC (woot fans know what that is), clicked "I want one", then it went back to the previous item saying "Sold out". 30 seconds later the BOC was again on the site, I clicked "I want one", got it added, but the payment timed out. By the time it would actually accept my payment, they were…

Dealing with large numbers of records in MySQL

Image
We recently got fed up with UPS's server outages (of the 2 IP's we typically use for shipping quotes, 1 was down pretty regularly for a while). So, I decided to populate our shippingrates table with all of the data we could ever need.

It all went along fine, until it got to about 10M records. At that point, our site started slowing and slowing, and what I found was the keys weren't able to be used for our standard query. It wasn't that big of a deal with 100k or even 200k records, but when I got up to 10M (it's over 30M now), that caused problems.

I did an alter table and made our index include one more field, and it now sorts everything the way I wanted by default. It wasn't actually the select statement causing the problem, it was the ORDER BY portion. It was having to use a filesort, which for a huge table doesn't work real quickly.

What other symptoms was this causing? For one, I was seeing the time spent waiting for IO growing. When looking at the output …

Meet the Search Engine Bots

Image
Have you ever wondered what a search engine bot looks like? Well, I've met them first hand at Search Engine Strategies, and they're a scary beast. Yahoo's Slurp, Google's Googlebot and others are strong bots, running around and grabbing pages from all over the web. Once trapped, you'll have a hard time getting them to let it go. They'll hold on to it for a very long time, until at some point it either gets banned or it vanishes into the supplemental index. They're truly mean bots.

On the other hand, MSNbot (some may say it's a-LiveBot) has the same core concept, but it seems to have missed one important piece. While it still runs around and finds pages, it's got a much tougher time holding on to them. This has led to numerous indexing problems. Hopefully they can get their bot's issues repaired soon, but I'm not holding my breath on that one. They're just too corporate for pincers (defined as "Noun : roach clip, roach holder - metal …

New Game - Spam Olympics

We recently got SpamAssassin set up with a ruleset that seems to be working fairly well. Not only has this made my inbox much nicer to look at, but it has also created a new game in our office. We now have the "Spam Olympics".

What is that you ask? Well, each piece of spam is given a score by the SpamAssassin judging bots. We just watch those scores, looking for the top marks from the algo. Initially, we were looking at 30 somethings as being good, but it quickly moved into the 40 range, and we had a few break 60 over the weekend.

Not exactly the most productive game, but at least it makes the SPAM worth double checking for false positives. I wonder how many other offices partake in the "Spam Olympics"...

When nothing goes right...

Image
I tried to take a test tonight. To begin with, the testing platform of choice was Microsoft Word. The background came in a "beautiful" aqua color. You know, this really bad color.

Secondly, I had forgotten all of my books at work. That left me feeling a little "disoriented". It's amazing what not having your usual reference materials does.

Third, the PC I was using was having some issues. The mouse batteries died halfway though, so I was using a lot of alt+tab, ctrl+tab, and for a new search, I found it simplest just to open a new tab in FireFox.

Add in telephone calls, a couple of IM interruptions, and children - well, it just wasn't a good night for a test.

Oh, and I didn't get much sleep last night after playing tennis late and then having to get up early for meetings most of the day.

I must be ready for a vacation... now that I feel like my brain cells have blown away like seeds of a dandelion.

Is the price of domains going up?

Image
I just got an email from network solutions that made me laugh. You can see to the right what I'm talking about. I think they forgot decimal points, because $3499 for a 1 year domain registration isn't a good deal. Either they missed that "." key on their keyboard (6 times), or the price of domains has really gone up over the past few days since I last bought one.

Work for Google Analytics

I seem to stumble on Google jobs ads quite regularly. This time, it was for Google Analytics. The ad simply read "Join our sales team! Openings for experienced analytics professionals."

Ok... Google is having a sales team for analytics? They're going to sell something that's free... how clever. I guess they really do want to index the world's information... one site's stats at a time.
Positions are available in Mountain View, CA and New York, NY for the following:• Account Manager
Account Executive

Chow Wii

The root of all evil, John Chow is giving away a Nintendo Wii. To enter, all you have to do is write a blog post about it. This is mine. Where’s my Wii? The contest is sponsored by 1234Pens.com. They make promotional pens.

(I know... I took the easy way out and just did a copy-paste of the text - and thanks to Andrea for making me read it in the first place.).

One problem with shared hosting...

If you use shared hosting, be aware that your server may not always be correctly configured to handle daylight savings time changes. The podcast I had intended to go live at 10am will actually be live at 11am central due to the server David is hosting on not being updated with the latest daylight savings time changes.

How I wish I had hosted this thing on my own... but I'd rather not put out the cash when David had plenty of bandwidth available. It just seems silly to spend money when he already had something available.

First podcast - 10am Central

The first of our Beginning SEO podcasts will be released at 10AM central (I scheduled it for 8, but David's server is set for Pacific time.) The first one will be some basic introductions and some information on cloaking - what it is, why it's been debated lately and if it's a good idea for you to use.

We also have our Ask an SEO question page up and running. Any questions - leave them there.

What were they thinking?

Image
As we were talking about some of the new products we were adding to our website today, this one became the center of our discussion. What was Occidental thinking in creating a product and trademark for "Full Fist", much less having a 3X size. Yes, that's XXX Full Fist action. I'm eagerly awaiting the search traffic on that one, let me tell you. That goes right along with the 4' vibrators we sell.

These tool companies, I tell ya.

Essential IT Tool for Wire Tracing

Image
For anyone working in the IT industry, you know how frustrating it is to have to try to find the other end of a cable. Regardless if it's phone or network, it could be a very long cable that is wrapped throughout the building.

Well, some time ago we bought a tone generator and probe. We bought it elsewhere at the time because we didn't carry them at all. But we now have several models to choose from.

The one we bought was the Greenlee Classic Tone and Probe Kit. On the one end, it allows you to plug in to either a jack or use a coupler to attach to a cable. The other device goes to the other end so you can figure out which wire you've plugged in to.

I luckily don't have to do all that much with wiring, but there have been enough times, even at home, where I can't figure out what the wire is that I'm trying to use that I consider this an essential tool. Without it, one could easily spend hours trying to find that one elusive cable - and I've done that. How many…

New SEO podcast, coming soon to an iPod near you

David Brown and I did some looking at SEO podcasts online. What we found was lots of podcasts we could stick into two categories.

Advanced SEO Podcasts. There are good, available on webmasterradio.fm, but very intimidating for newbies.Beginner Bad Advice Podcasts. Yeah, we found some beginner podcasts, but the advice was awful - ranging from "Create doorways" to "stuff your meta tags with keywords".So, as they said on the movie Robots, See a need - Fill a need. Starting next week, David and I will be doing an SEO Podcast focused on beginning techniques, explaining recent SEO news at a beginner level, and giving long-term strategies for people to keep in mind. I'm sure there will be some things that experienced SEO's will be laughing at as well as techniques they can learn from, but we want to make something that invites new people to start learning about our industry.

Yes, Dad - this would even apply to you.

HTTP 204 - the forgotten status

With everyone being so hot to use Ajax for things now, it seems that people forget how much simpler things can be done if you just stop and use some old-school techniques. I know I like Ajax for some things, but if it isn't necessary, then why introduce the extra bit of complexity?

I'm speaking here about the 204 status code.

Quoting the W3
204 No Content The server has fulfilled the request but does not need to return an entity-body, and might want to return updated metainformation. The response MAY include new or updated metainformation in the form of entity-headers, which if present SHOULD be associated with the requested variant. If the client is a user agent, it SHOULD NOT change its document view from that which caused the request to be sent. This response is primarily intended to allow input for actions to take place without causing a change to the user agent's active document view, although any new or updated metainformation SHOULD be ap…

Setting up subversion

Image
After a couple of "What happened" type moments in the past, we've finally decided to set up a versioning system. At this point, we're trying to set up subversion because Nick has seen good things about it. CVS seems a little out of date, and SVN seems to find strengths in CVS's weaknesses.

Yet another adventure in a growing company begins today...

UPS data issues

I've discovered something this week that I'm working on fixing. What I discovered is this: real-time lookups aren't a good thing.

For years now, we've done real-time lookups whenever someone adds a product to their cart and enters a zip code. This allows us to not worry about rate changes and focus on the products.

But what it's also meant is we're leaving money on the table. A quick test over the past few days has shown that nearly 10% of the time, UPS's servers aren't returning data. That doesn't seem good to me.

There are days where our customer service reps complain about shipping rates taking a long time to load. Those are the times I knew about. But the 10% figure is even without taking the "Nothing returned" into account - this is just "Something useless returned".

So, as a fix, I've queried enough to get all the rates now, and I'm rewriting our shipping calculations to run entirely without querying their servers. We&#…

Snow what?

Yeah... it's snowing. It's snowing hard. Oh, and did I mention some white stuff is falling from the sky?

I guess that means I'll be working from home for a while today. Not a big deal... I just need to set up a few tunnels and I can access our dev box pretty easily. Then, it'll be almost like I'm at work - without all the phonecalls and other distractions.

Custom Theme

Hey, I finally got a custom theme for this blog. I've been using free ones from around the web. This was originally developed for use at oneboxer.com, but I ended up using it here. There's a more "Googlish" theme coming for oneboxer.

So now I've got to say some thanks to Robert Garcia (Rumblepup). He's not really doing design work any more, but rather high end e-commerce consulting. I think he really just got tired of looking at the drab gray blog that I had and made a decent creative... all 2.0ish... just for me.

Finding the competition in niches

Many times, niche sites hide in the SERPs. I know that for ToolPartsDirect.com, there are some competing sites that we've never heard of when searching. But I know about quite a few of them.

How did I find them?

I did a niche keyword search in Google Image search. Even some of the more general searches, like makita parts, show some competitors that don't normally hit the SERPs.

While I was doing some research in this manner recently, I saw some familiar names on the tool side that seem to be trying to take our idea and slowly work it into their site. But I know they're there, so I can monitor what's going on.

Dave Pasternack Ads

Image
Well, the Dave Pasternack SEO contest is almost over (thankfully), and there are lots of great ads. One even made it to the "Bonus" above the organic listings. These are some of my favorites, with links for my real favorite ads.



Houston We Got a Problem
Might Not be Rocket Science But
Don't Trust Your SEO to Amatuers
www.Wolf-Howl.com

Nice one. Truly enjoyable.



For top rank on Dave's
name, it's anybody's game. For
Insurance & Loans, It's SureHits
www.SureHits.com

Sure... and for Toilet Paper it's The New York Times. This one wasn't really a fav, but wasn't as bad as a few that didn't make the list.



A Pasternack Tale
Dave says PPC is the way to go, but
I can rank high with quality SEO.
www.top10seotips.com

No way... you can rank high without spending money? Well, isn't that what the whole point of this contest was? SEO's wanted to prove they could outrank Dave for his name... so where's your site in the list?



SEO Rocket Science Tools
SEO Too…

Already Upgrading the Development Server

I reported not that long ago that we finally got a development server. Well, we've already shut that one off and moved to a new one.

Apparently, that was much more of an antique than I thought it would be. We're now running a Hyperthreaded P4 with 2GB of RAM and hardware mirrored SCSI drives. I thought that the old machine would just act like our web servers under heavy load, but when it was taking 2 minutes or longer just to load a couple fields via Ajax calls, I decided that wasn't worth waiting for any more.

Now, I'm going to be able to develop a little quicker... and I've got some sweet projects planned out. When I get them a little further along, I'll be sure to let anyone reading here know about them.

Hearing the call

Jeremy Schoemaker put together a nice event for Nebraska, which I attended last night. Today I see he's already calling me out to speak at the next one.

If that's the case, I'll have some demands.

First, I want access to the presenters lounge. I think that's the restroom, but someone's gotta show me where that is anyway.

Secondly, I'm gonna need another link, but this time with the words power tools pointed at ToolBarn.com.

Third, I want a couple of questions to answer to get started. I've never actually been asked to speak on SEO, and I've got no idea what level the attendees are at, so it'll be much easier to speak if I have questions from the group. I'm sure a post on shoemoney.com would get a few responses that would help.

Oh, and #2 is optional.

The bottom line: I'd be delighted to speak to the group, Jeremy. And, not being like those MBL people, I'll even send you an email to let you know this.

Simple Network Monitor

Image
Every once in a while, a must-have product comes along that, for the price, just can't be passed up. I was excited when Simple Network Monitor offered to pay me to review their product, because quite simply, I have a need for it and getting paid to evaluate it seems almost too good to pass up.

The download of the 30 day trial was pretty quick and painless, as was the simple installation process. On starting the program, it came up with "You are on day 1 of your 30 day evaluation" and the options of close, buy, and register. I chose close and the program started up.

Clicking on the "Add a Server" icon brought up a very simple form with Hostname, Friendly Name, Location, Server Notes, Alert E-Mail Address(es), and checkboxes for Override E-Mail Addresses, Server Monitoring Enabled, and Create a Ping Monitor. Once I filled in the basic fields, it showed up in my list of servers. From there, I could add a monitor. I selected HTTP Monitor, set the interval and timeout…

At last - a development server

I've been working on configuring a development web server for toolbarn.com over the past couple of days. Was it a quad processor, quad core system with terabytes of RAM and storage? Perhaps a Sun T-2000 with more threads than you can shake a stick at?

Not a chance.

I'm using old hardware to simulate our web servers under a heavier load. That, and it was sitting here not being used.

I commissioned a Dell PowerEdge 2300 with 768MB of RAM, dual PIII 600's, and 3 8GB SCSI drives in Software Raid 5. Not exactly high-end stuff that we'd want to run anything serious on, but for developing a website, it'll be just fine.

We also set up a PhpWiki for keeping track of development notes internally among the team in IT, and we'll be doing lots of documentation over the next little while. Oh, what fun.

I remembered, after getting 403 permission denied errors on all folders, that Apache requires some special tuning of the selinux parameters. Note to self: find this post next time …

Congrats, Rand!

Congratulations, Rand and Geraldine. That's awesome.



So is the reaction.



Of course, had the SEO world known it was you, we would have first asked why you needed our money, then you would have had more than you knew what to do with for just one commercial.

In any event, congratulations and well played. It was certainly a proposal that fit your personality due to the buzz behind it and knowing how good you are at creating that. Here's to many happy years of creating buzz together.

Everything you ever wanted to know...

about Dave Pasternack. And, maybe some things you didn't want to know. Nice contest entry, Oilman.

Thanks, Microsoft

As I was reading about yet another zero day exploit in office today, a co-worker and I came to an amazing revelation. Microsoft is keeping the global IT economy flourishing.

Not only are all of those using the exploits to make money getting rich, but they are pretty much singlehandedly keeping the security industry (one of the fastest growing sectors in IT) in business. For that, I'd like to say thanks.

Now, for those of you who don't like exploits, you can also say no thanks. I'm saying that by NOT upgrading to Vista. I intend to continue to support CentOS and Ubuntu for quite some time yet, unless an even cooler free version of Linux comes along. It seems Vista is pushing more people to look at Linux as a viable alternative. Thanks for that too, Microsoft.

Initial Hitwise impressions

For those that aren't really familiar with Hitwise, they're a data collection agency. Through relationships with ISP's, they track user behavior. Then, they turn around and sell the information back to us webmasters.

I got an account approved for my 2007 budget (not an easy task, let me tell you) and started poking around in there today. My first impression is that this is really amazing data.

For starters, I've taken most of our top competitors and found all of the phrases that are driving traffic to their sites. For those of you doing your own sites, how useful would that be? I'm able to see if there are phrases that would make sense to target ourselves that our competitors are using.

Secondly, once I've found a cool phrase, I can see what websites get what percentage of the traffic for that phrase. This is really cool for benchmarking how well we're doing for a given term.

While this data is cool, it's also incomplete. For example, Amazon hasn't show…

Can I view my blog posts?

We all know that it's considered evil to click on ads displayed on your own site, right?

What if you're getting CPM ads? Is it then evil to view your own pages?

I haven't quite figured this out. Anyone care to shed some light for me?

We're back

After what seems like forever (even though it was only 5pm - 11:30 am), we're back up and running. Time for me to get some sleep and warm up my feet. It's too cold in the basement without shoes on.

Hour 13 and counting

I'm well into hour 13 of the site being down, but I'm finally making progress. MySQL support got me to rebuild all the tables to our last successful backup, and now I'm using bin-log files to rerun all the queries that had been run since then.

With any luck, I'll have this almost ready to go around the time the call center and warehouse start showing up and needing it.

Wow... this sure cut into sales. But it could have been worse, I guess. I'm not sure how, but I'm sure it could have been. I guess if none of the backups were successful, that'd qualify.

MySQL Platinum Support being used

We've got a pair of replicated MySQL database servers. That's great - until the replication process corrupts both. That's the situation we're currently in.

Much to my (dis)pleasure, I get to use the platinum support that we paid a bunch for. I called them and had an engineer on the phone within 15 - 20 minutes (they answered right away and had him call me back, which was awesome.)

The little bit of hair I have left is getting pulled out by the minute, though. It's really not simple troubleshooting a crashed pair of servers, as we've already been working on this for 4-1/2 hours. I'm waiting for the engineer to contact me once again, so I thought I'd post something quick.

This was, however, a great opportunity to upgrade to the latest version of MySQL enterprise.

Oh, the joys of doing business online.

Want to work for Google?

I recently spotted an ad saying that Google is looking for a few good people for their AdSense team. It looks like Mountain View and New York at this time.

http://www.google.com/jobs/aspireadsense/

If you get the job, make sure to write us little people. :)

Decided to podcast - here's my process

I decided to start podcasting my other blog. This has meant a pretty big learning curve, but I already had the hardware I needed and much of the software.

I've had several people ask what I'm using, so I'm going to list everything I can remember for now and I'll do some follow-ups later.

To begin with, I'm using a Shure SM58 microphone. This is sort of the vocal standard in our local bands, and it works quite well for what I'm doing.

I send this into a Behringer Ultra-Voice Pro. Like I said, I had the equipment. This item is discontinued, although most any vocal pre-amp is going to work fairly well. Just look for something that has a compressor, enhancer, noise gate and a voice optimized EQ.

From there, I have some vocal effects that I'm not using, so I send the signal directly to my M-Audio Delta 1010. This thing has really come down in price since I paid for it. I think list was around $1000 at that point, and I grabbed it for just under $600. This is probabl…

Not posting much here...

For those of you wondering why I haven't been posting much here, I've had a bit of a distraction over at my new blog, oneboxer.com. I'm talking Google Base optimization techniques over there for showing up in the onebox results. I've got posts done for the next two weeks, so I'm going to do some posting here once again. I just wanted to give everyone a head up as to what's happening here.

Amazon stories - what does the "Also bought" tell us?

Image
So there is a link going around right now, which most people just think is funny. I think it tells us a sad story.

Barbie uses a drill to prepare rabbit rotisserie style, which was killed by running it over by a bike, was skinned by a pocket knife and will be eaten by a roboreptile. Obviously, that's the only conclusion one can come up with. Why else would someone need all that stuff with a fresh whole rabbit?

How important is one-box?

Todd has convinced me to start a new domain, so the contents of this post have been relocated on my new blog.

How important is one-box?