Archive for Business


Introducing SUMO

I’ve been absent from this blog for just shy of a year. Humble apologies. Alas, I have been keeping myself busy, promise.

A relatively recent business adventure involves producing a delightful ice cream scoop, dubbed SUMO, which is sold exclusively (for now) on Amazon. Here’s a glitzy lifestyle shot, as they call it:

Ice Cream Scoop (By Wanderbites Studio)-101 copy

 Tags: Business, Introducing   Published: 25th May '15

Obtain Backlinks You Already Have

If you have an old, well established site, it’s likely that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of inbound links across the web pointing to the homepage and other pages on your site. You may be surprised by just how many of those links are dud; caused by typos, or links to pages that no longer exist (or perhaps have never existed).

Users may still end up arriving on your 404 error page, but a significant chunk of the SEO juice will be lost if Google does not see a congruent match in content between the source page, anchor text of the link, and the destination page.

301 redirects placed in your .htaccess file can help fix the issue, helping both users and the search engines find what they were looking for. In addition to typos, you’ll want to fix-up deleted pages too, by redirecting users back to an approximately-similar page, or just the homepage.

Both Google Webmaster Tools and AdSense provide a list of crawl errors; showing pages that Google tried to crawl but was unable to do so. Simply work through that list, matching the erroneous URL with the correct one, and then appending that to the .htaccess document. Webmaster Tools reports the source URL of the link, so you could plug those into Open Site Explorer (or similar tool) to then prioritise redirects by the SEO-weight of the links.

I’ve scheduled a reoccurring monthly task to update the list of 301 redirects. It’s hard to measure what impact it makes, but it intuitively makes sense as a worthwhile endeavour.

 Tags: Business   Published: 18th October '12

The 24-hour Fake Startup

A few weeks ago, Sophie (a fellow Project Getaway participant) and I both launched a business within just 24-hours (actually, we had both hit out goal after just 18-hours).

We both had come up with ideas for products that we thought could be interesting to sell online, but we didn’t want to stake a large investment in a complex website or sourcing inventory. So we formulated a plan to instead ‘fake it’. We created an online store, showcased some mock products, promoted the site through AdWords, and waited to see the results.

This concept takes ideas from Tim Ferris and the Lean Startup; namely the concept of minimum viable product (TechCrunch has a nice piece on how Dropbox used MVP to create demand without a working product), whereby you launch a business with the very bare bones of a product or service to test the waters before making a larger commitment.

My venture centered around fascinators; those fancy hair broche type of things that have seen a boom in the UK since the Royal Wedding. I figured that they could be sourced cheaply from China, shipped over to the UK in bulk and sold online at a price that reflected good value.

After a quick bit of brainstorming, Sophie & Fox was born. We used the superb Shopify platform to launch our webshop, taking advantage of Paypal for simple payment processing.

Here’s a screenshot of the Sophie & Fox homepage (the site has now been put offline). I made use of a standard template, with a bit of customisation and a custom-made logo. I’m pretty happy with the look; it feels very professional and slick.

I spent most of the day hacking the template to make it more bespoke, working with a graphic designer on some elements (which turned out to be quite painful) and adding some products to the store.

We whacked together a super quick AdWords campaign (featuring the most obvious broad keywords, coupled with a few ad texts and some negative keywords) and set it live immediately with a budget of $30/day. Traffic acquisition through Google might not be commercially viable in the long-term, but it served us perfectly for this experiment – if we can’t convert highly targeted visitors, then it’s unlikely that there’s demand for our product.

This Google results page shows the Sophie & Fox ad on top for the “fascinators” keyword.

After $101 and 262 clicks of ad spend, I had received just 1 order. (Of course, I refunded the payment immediately and apologised for not being able to supply the product at the time).

My experience suggests that fascinators aren’t a great product to sell online. Of course, perhaps a more conversion-optimised page could have performed better, and building the brand would help enormously, but I was hoping to see a much higher conversion rate which would show a much greater opportunity to work with.

But I wouldn’t consider the test a failure. I had only spent a hundred bucks and a day of my time to turn a seed of an idea into fully fledged proof of concept. I feel confident that I could now go on to test out other products in the same way and I’m sure after a while I’d find something that sticks.

Sophie worked on building Sticky Inspiration; cool little Post-it like notes with inspirational quotes that you can stick anywhere. Her test continues.

 Tags: Business   Published: 21st November '11

Companies House Should be Free

Maybe it’s just one of my oddities, but I quite enjoy stumbling across a business and wondering about its financial health.

Companies House can answer such questions; providing access to annual returns for any incorporated business in the UK, at around ~£1 a shot. As well as satisfying curiosities, it can importantly help inspring entrepreneurs understand the viability of incumbent players in a market. Existing businesses can also analyse their competitors and analyse the financial success of their execution.

The charge isn’t much, but it’s enough to put you off from downloading a report on a casual whim. New business generation and increased competition resulting from free downloads would surely offset the meager revenue that the £1 transactions must generate?

 Tags: Business   Published: 20th May '11

User Generated Tour Guide Platform

I’ve had an idea recently and a few friends have suggested that it wasn’t half bad.

The ever popular weekend/short city break can be tough to plan. Time is short and you want to experience as much as possible. There’s so much information on the web that curation has become a necessary lifeline. Facebook is busy with people sharing recommendations. Quora can help you with personal suggestions from other humans. TripAdvisor gives you the aggregated opinion of thousands, and WikiTravel gives a condensed list edited by a select few.

Not bad. But whilst you may appreciate the recommendations of your friends or the collective wisdom of many, these opinions still represent the suggestions people not entirely like you. On the other end of the spectrum, Lonely Planet or an editorial provides the opinion of just one person. That’s perfect if your needs resonate with those of the author. Such guides also lack social validation and are quickly outdated.

I envisage that there’s still a need for a middle ground; a platform that provides access to a mass number of searchable, social validated, and highly-curated city guides.

Paint the picture. You arrive on the site and see a world map with markings for all the cities offering guides. Select your city, and you’ll see a list of guides created for that city. Some are for those on a 48-hour weekend stint, some are child friendly, others for foodies, revellers, and so on.

Delving into a guide, you’ll be presented with a detailed map, annotated with the recommended attractions, restaurants and so on. Maybe it even marks out the suggested route and provides supplementary information on the cost and time you can anticipate the trip to consume. Read reviews, closing times other pertinent information for each location. Hit print and get a handy document to accompany your trip.

Not wholly satisfied with the guide? Tag it, leave a review, merge it with another guide, remove some attractions, swap a restaurant and there you go. You could then share your newly created iteration with others on the site. All this feedback can be used to help users find the guide suitable for them; imagine going to Paris listing, selecting the ‘foodie’ filter and seeing the top 5 rated guides come up.

The online travel industry is a tough nut to crack, but there’s plenty of money flowing, making advertising and affiliate commissions the obvious monetisation route. Another option is to charge for the guides or solicit gratuities (taking a cut before it’s passed onto the original author) -but they’re always tricky options to pull off.

Some sites like the beautifully presented and curated unlike.net allow you to build and share a tour, but it’s not a core feature of the site and lacks depth.

I’m surprised this doesn’t exist, unless I’m mistaken?

Update: TripWorlf allows you to build a multi-location trip and then compile it as a PDF with map, location addresses and descriptions. Stay.com pretty much does everything I had in mind and has been going since 2009.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 12th May '11

Groupon Should Be Way More Social

Groupon is branded as a place for group buying, whereby a deal only becomes available when a tipping point is hit. In reality, the site has simply become a deal-of-the-day shopfront.

Its meteoric rise has been well analysed and largely boils down to superb execution; such as their aggressive efforts to consolidate the market and the hiring of a huge sales force (I bet you didn’t realise they have some 5,000 employees). Another key aspect is timing, with increasingly thrifty consumers and investors keen to back the next big scalable venture. Groupon would surely have not risen to its current status without Facebook and social media. Yet, I believe it’s poorly utilised. Here’s some thoughts on how Groupon could be more social:

  • Group deals. Some offers are innately social – group activities, dinners and so on. I often see people share a deal on Facebook hoping to recruit others to join them. Why not build that into the Groupon experience? Have a user commit with the credit card, but not be charged enough friends also commit. This opens up a whole new range of potential merchants Groupon could work with.
  • ‘Got a Groupon’ sharing. Once a user makes a purchase, Groupon could do a whole lot more to encourage the user to share the good news. Rather than a simple Share button, deeply integrate social features and allow the user to share with specific friends, earn loyalty benefits through Groupon, and share rich information through their profile.
  • Sliding scale group buying. The more people buy, the greater the deal becomes. Somewhat flawed as too many people would holdout until the deal improves before committing. That effect be dampened by offering a decent ‘base’ deal that is marginally improved as more users join. Uniqlo ran a similar campaign, where prices dropped as more Tweets went out. This way, users are incentivised to share and spread the word – the impact is huge.
  • Post-experience sharing and caring. The merchant may well collate some information from each customer, but Groupon certainly has the ability to reach you after the event. Why not blast out an email to every consumer a week after their experience? Thank them for their purchase and solicit them to check out the merchant’s Facebook Page, follow them on Twitter, or leave a review on Tripadvisor. If the user had a great experience (likely helped by the fact that they got a good deal), then they’d be more willing to share their thoughts. Groupon can be somewhat impartial and invite users to leave both negative and positive, helping build its credibility too — all whilst preventing nasty privacy complaints since no data is passed onto the merchant. The flurry of activity generated through these channels would gain the merchant a heap of earned media, extending the ROI from the promotion. Margins are tightened through Groupon, so merchants count on repeat business and word of mouth — yet Groupon fails to facilitate this through social media.

What do you think?

Update: Zuppy allows SMEs to build their own deal-of-the-day feature. Interestingly, one of the features is to enable the the tipping point to be linked to the number of Facebook Likes.

 Tags: Business   Published: 29th April '11

Introducing TwilightArchives.com

The M&A team at Lunatude have been busy. I’ve been speaking with webmasters for months and finally stumbled onto a site fitting for my portfolio. TwilightArchives.com is an online repository of fan fiction for the insanely popular Twilight series.

Users come along and share their stories. Others can edit and review these stories. Pretty simple. The site is in need of some serious TLC; it’s experiencing falling traffic and growing competition. It’ll be a challenge, but it may just pay off.

Here’s the current homepage:

Want to see an example story? Try Dream’s Shadow, apparently it’s quite popular.

Redevelopment work has begun in earnest and an all new design should appear in a couple of weeks time.

I’ve tagged this, and some other posts, with the all new Introducing tag, so you can see a list of the other sites I’ve toyed with over the years.

 Tags: Business, Introducing   Published: 19th March '11

Lunatude.com Inc.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to go with lunatude.com as my company name. Not sure if I’m in love with it yet, but I’m hoping it’ll grow on me.

Figured I’d share some of the other contenders that made it to the final shortlist:

  • bajook.com
  • banziba.com
  • banzibar.com
  • chewylab.com
  • gobbleandgobble.com
  • lavanoodle.com
  • mangomayo.com
  • mumbazo.com
  • netlunatic.com
  • spacefruits.com
  • sqiddle.com
  • sugarhug.com
  • sumofactory.com
  • twizzlefish.com
  • whirple.com
  • zombieandbrains.com

They’re all still available at the moment, so grab away if you fancy. A simple splash-page style site should be up within a couple of weeks.

Update: For those in the dark, I really should explain what it is exactly that the business does. This post provides some background. Sites I currently operate include BusSongs.com, Just-Pooh.com and TwilightArchives.com.

 Tags: Business   Published: 1st February '11

Facebook for Celebs

If you want to use Facebook and you happen to be Paris Hilton, well I guess it might be kinda tricky. You want to be able to stay in contact with real-world friends, avoid a deluge of messages and requests from weirdos, and all whilst finding a way to drum up some PR with a presence fans can connect with. All of which is quite possible, but it’s pretty hard to navigate around all the various tools and requires settings.

I reckon there’s probably an untapped need for a specialised agency focused on offering consultancy or acting services for celebrities (and their agent/management) who want to crack the wave of new social tools. If I can muster the time and energy, it’d make an interesting project to create a flashy webpage and put together some decent white papers; creating the illusion of a fully fledged agency, and then waiting to see if anyone takes the bait.

In the meantime, if any celebrities (of the A/B list variety) would like some free in-depth consultation, please get in touch.

 Tags: Business, Internet   Published: 21st September '10

Autumn Cleanup

To help focus my energies on revenue generating activities (the corporate world did have it’s mark), I’m doing a bit of a cleanup and offloading redundant and low-value projects.

All my spare domain names have been listed for sale and I’ve stuck a few up for auction on Flippa (the de facto marketplace for buying and selling online properties). Hopefully I can get rid of the lot, or I’ll just leave them fizzle away into non-existence.

I sold the TopInterviewTips.com site in an auction a couple of months ago. The idea was was to build a niche content site from scratch and see if it could be a scalable model for building a portfolio of small earners. Well, it didn’t really pan out too well in the end, but I snagged $250 from the auction which just about covered the development costs and time I had invested (circa 4-hours).

FixMyFloors.com (the awe-inspiring ebook that generates a small amount of fan mail) is currently up for auction, and I’ll be letting others go soon. The aim is to get rid of pretty much everything and leave myself with just the core cash-cows (BuSongs.com and Just-Pooh.com) and provide me with the capital/head-space to invest elsewhere.

 Tags: Business   Published: 7th September '10