Archives for April 2007

How Much Time Do You Spend Online?

Have mankind’s basic needs evolved to include time on the internet? From the results of a recent poll, it certainly seems that way!

According to a poll on The New Business Blog, nearly 65% of us spend at least eight hours each day trolling the internet. It doesn’t take a math wizard to see that this represents, at minimum, 1/3rd of a day.

The results of the poll breakdown like this: 64% of respondents stated they spent at least eight hours on the internet each day; 20% of respondents stated they spent between five and seven hours on the internet each day; 14% of respondents stated they spent between two and four hours on the internet each day; and only 2% of respondents stated they spend one hour or less on the internet each day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the results of this poll are slightly skewed for a couple of reasons, namely, the poll was conducted online and because The New Business Blog isn’t normally a site that a lot of people just come to (people tend to stumble upon it while surfing the net) it seems to me that the site’s visitors are probably people who spend a decent amount of time online.

That being said, even for 65% of the survey’s respondents to state that they spend at least eight hours each day online really blows my mind. I know that we have become accustomed to the internet and, on some levels, depend on it, but the fact that a majority of us are spending more time online than sleeping is a bit disconcerting.

Fortunately for those of us who run online businesses, this is pretty good news. During the days of dial-up, when people didn’t spend a whole lot of time online, it was tough to make sales and get your site seen by lots of people. But now that most people have high speed internet and spend lots of time online, the chances of you scoring sales or hits has really increased.

Now, get off the computer and go get some exercise!

Why You Should Start an Online Business

It’s no secret that starting a business is one of the most likely ways to generate “massive wealth” but unfortunately too many people never get around to forming a business because they think it’s simply too difficult and risky. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Starting an online business has been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It doesn’t cost much, is simple to set up and the potential rewards (i.e. money) are far too great to pass up.

Here are the top five reasons why starting an online business is something that you should seriously consider:

  1. There’s very little overhead. For most of us who run small websites – and even for some of us who run larger sites – a majority of our overhead costs come from buying our domain name and having the site hosted. And with the fact that you can get good, reliable hosting starting at $5 to $10 per month, that’s certainly a heck of a lot cheaper than the hundreds or thousands of dollars you’d have to pay to cover the overhead costs for a brick-and-mortar business.
  2. Creating a site is easier than ever. Not only is it easier than ever, but it’s also cheaper than ever, thanks to great open source software like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Even if you’re unable or unwilling to do the site development on your own, the cost of having someone else do it for you has decreased dramatically.
  3. You have easy access to an international market. By having your business online, you can easily reach people all over the world, not just the people that live within a reasonable driving distance to your store. Now your potential customer list has grown from a couple hundred thousand to the several billion people around the world with an internet connection.
  4. It’s easy to have multiple streams of income on one site. By having your business online, you can make money from Adsense or other contextual advertising, affiliate programs, direct advertising deals, selling your own products – the list goes on and on. Whereas your revenue streams tied directly to the products or services you sell from your brick-and-mortar business, the ways you can make money online is relatively endless and, most importantly, easy to change around.
  5. It’s easy to maintain contact with current and potential customers. All you really have to do to remind people to come back to your site is to send out a quick little email. That’s it. Just slap together a professional looking newsletter, talk about your site, what you’ve updated, what deals you’ve got going on, etc., and then fire it off and wait for people to come back to your site.

Obviously, the list could go on and on – I haven’t even talked about how much fun (yes, despite all of the hard work, this is pretty fun) running your own business is, how you can easily turn a hobby into an income, etc., etc. – but I’ll go ahead and stop here.

Long story short, there really is no reason why you can’t start your own online business, so get moving!

Nolo’s Form Your Own LLC – Book Review

Going about starting your own Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be a pretty daunting and intimidating task, especially your first time around when you absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Fortunately, before I started the process of putting together my LLCs I bought a copy of Nolo’s Form Your Own Limited Liability Company, and I have to say, it was probably one of the better purchases I’ve made in quite some time and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in either learning more about or forming their own LLC.

One of the reasons why I found this book to be so useful is because it does a very good job explaining the legal ins and outs of an LLC, what its benefits and downfalls are, and why you should or shouldn’t choose it as your legal structure.

As I was putting together my businesses, I wasn’t sure whether to choose an LLC or an S-Corp as my business’ legal structure and this book went a long way towards helping me figure that stuff out.

Form Your Own Limited Liability Company 4th Edition

Despite the usefulness of this background information, I think the most helpful resource in this book was the included CD, which contained all of the forms necessary to make your business legally legit. This way I didn’t have to search all over the internet to find all of the forms that I needed to fill out, which saved me a lot of time and aggravation.

Anyway, if you’re interested in forming a business or you would just like to learn more about LLCs, I would certainly recommend this book; I definitely think it’s the best LLC resource out there!

Digg the Runaway Favorite News Submission Site

Apparently despite all of its apparent flaws, people still love Digg.

A while back I started a poll asking people to vote on their favorite news submission sites. When I put the poll together I figured that the final results would be relatively close, but that when all was said and done people would select Digg more than any other news submission site.

While I was correct in my assumption that more people would pick Digg, I definitely overestimated the number of people that I thought would pick some of the other news submission sites.

According to the poll, 59% of people listed Digg as their favorite news submission site, 12% listed Reddit, 12% listed “other” and less than 10% chose Netscape, Shoutwire and StumbleUpon.

This seems to make plenty of sense – Digg’s been around the longest, has the most users, gets the most traffic and it probably won’t be long before the term “digg” is listed in the dictionary as a verb, much like “google” is.  These items, in addition to an easy to use, eye-pleasing interface, make it hard to not dig Digg.

The one feature that Digg doesn’t have – that Reddit does – is a “recommended articles” feature that essentially shows you articles that you might be interested based on what you have previously Dugg.  For many Reddit users, it’s this feature that keeps them coming back, so if Digg were to incorporate this it seems to me that it would completely dominate the Web 2.0 news submission genre. 

And to be perfectly honest, despite the several articles I’ve written regarding how I think Digg needs to be changed – it got my vote, too.

Open Source Software for Your Business?

When starting your business, aside from all of the money you’ll spend on the necessary paper work that makes your business “official,” the next biggest expense you’re likely to incur for your business’ software.

If you choose to go for all of the latest and greatest programs out there, you could be looking at spending several thousand dollars. Thankfully, there is a legal way to get around many of these expenses without sacrificing much performance: using open source software.

Essentially, open source software is developed by groups of programmers and when released, can be downloaded and used by anyone, free of charge. Many of the programs are able to replicate the functionality of high priced software, so it’s not like there is a dramatic drop off in performance.

Additionally, many of these programs are set up so that you don’t need to be very technologically savvy in order to use them – so you really are getting the best of both worlds.

Because I’m a bit of a miser, I’m a pretty be proponent and user of open source software. In fact, WordPress, the software that I use to publish this site as well as Daily Fuel Economy Tip and Saving Without A Budget, is a free program that anybody can use.

Anyway, here are some free programs that I use for my business:

  • Google Docs: Many of the applications here can replicate what you would use in products like Microsoft Office. All you need to access this service is to create a Google account, which is easy and free.
  • Buddi: This is a very simple budgeting tool that allows you to track expenses, sales, etc. While Buddi doesn’t have a ton of features, it should be enough to allow you to get started tracking your transactions.
  • Task Coach: This program is a simple tool that allows you to create and manage to do and task lists. The thing I like about this program is it allows you to create multiple tasks under one end goal.

If you would like to search for other open source software for your business, be sure to check out

Before you get too deep into a program, make sure you read its documentation. Many of these programs are still in beta form, so in order to avoid bugs and some problems, you’re probably going to want to work with programs that are in the final release phase.

Hopefully by using open source software, you’ll be able to save a lot of money, watch your profits increase and not notice any falloff in your software’s usability.

My Final Beef With Digg

Okay, I know I’m being pretty obsessive compulsive about Digg, so I promise, this will be the last post about it for a while.  The way I look at it, I like Digg a lot – and by looking at the poll in the sidebar, I’m not the only one – and because I like it so much, I just want to make it better.

Anyway, my latest and final problem with Digg is that they don’t show you who has buried your submission.  While it’s easy to find out who has Dugg your articles – it’s impossible to see who didn’t like your story and gave the heave-ho.

This feature may actually be the one area where Netscape has a leg up on Digg, as Netscape shows not only the people who voted for your story, but the people that sunk the story as well.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I’m being sabotaged.  Now, before you go and call me paranoid, I’d like you to listen to my very valid argument, which centers on my first “Digg needs to be fixed” post.

In that article, which quickly made the homepage and ended up with nearly 3,500 Diggs, I wrote about how Digg was quickly becoming like a high school clique, with the same 25 or 30 users dominating the homepage.  While I certainly enjoyed a very nice traffic boost, I’m afraid that I may have pissed off a bunch of these top Diggers.

The reason I think this is because now, whenever an article from The New Business Blog gets submitted to Digg, it’ll quickly get 15 or 20 Diggs and then magically it will get buried.  Keep in mind, this happens when other people submit articles from this site, not just when I do it.

Obviously, at this point I’m just speculating, but I’m pretty sure that if I were to see who has been burying articles from The New Business Blog, I would probably see some familiar names from Digg’s homepage.

So, on that note, if you feel the same way that I do and believe that there should be additional voting transparency – so you can see not just who Dugg your articles, but who buried them as well – please contact Digg and let them know that you agree.

The Definitive Guide to Getting up on Digg’s Homepage

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a pretty seething article about how Digg was beginning to come across as a “high school clique” due to the difficulty for us little guys to make it up to the homepage.  After that article made it up to the homepage, I figured that what I had done was just a fluke, and didn’t really think much of it – aside from enjoying the extra traffic.

However, since then, I have been able to get an additional seven articles up onto Digg’s homepage.  Because I don’t think this latest string of successful submissions is just dumb luck, I’ve taken a look at what I’ve been doing lately to get up on Digg’s homepage, and I’ve come up with what I think is the most thorough “guide” to helping others reap the benefits of getting on Digg’s homepage.

So, here are my step-by-step instructions that will help you get more Diggs and increase the likelihood that your submissions make it up onto the homepage:

1. Content:  Obviously, if you submit garbage you’re not going to get any Diggs, so make sure that you’re submitting articles about topics that are of interest to people.  Additionally, nobody is going to Digg your article if you’re the 15th person to submit a story about a particular subject.

However, in terms of getting Diggs, I believe that your content is the least important factor on this list.  The reason being, many people don’t Digg based on content, rather they Digg based on titles, summaries and whether or not you’re one of their friends.

And the reason I can vouch is there’s no way in the world any of my articles ever would have made Digg’s homepage based on my content/writing skills!

2. Titles:  Because this is going to be the first thing people look at when deciding whether or not to read or Digg your submission, you need to make this count.  The title you submit has to be eye catching or it’s going to get lost in the shuffle.  So before you just slap a title on your submission and be on your way, make sure that it’s witty, sharp, clever, insightful, funny, etc. 

Think of it this way, if the title you submit is so boring that it wouldn’t catch your eye, realized that it’s not going to grab anyone else either.  And if nobody’s looking at your submission, nobody’s going to Digg it.

3. Summary:  For me, this one has always been the most difficult part.  When writing your summary, you have to make sure that you don’t give away too much because you’re then taking away any reason for someone to click on your link.  That being said, you still have to give enough to pique the reader’s interest, otherwise they’re just going to skip over your submission.

What I’ve noticed a lot of people doing – and it seems to work pretty well – is copying and pasting the opening paragraph from their article and then slightly tweaking it to fit the constraints of Digg’s submission summary.  This seems to work because in your opening paragraph you tend to give away just enough to let the reader know what the article is about to rope them in to read everything else.

4. Category of Submission: When you submit your article, you’re going to want to choose the category that most closely resembles the topic of your article.  Unfortunately, this can be a lot easier said than done, especially if you’re going to submit a tech related article.

That being said, the categories that tend to appear most frequently on Digg’s homepage are: Tech Industry News, Business and Finance, Offbeat News, World News and Gaming News.  Because these categories tend to show up on the homepage more frequently, it leads me to believe that these are the categories that get the most traffic as well.

5. Time of Day:  This is another one of those tricky ones: you want to submit your articles during peak times so that a lot of people will look at your submission, but you also don’t want to submit when everyone else is because you’re article will get lost in the crowd.

What’s seemed to have worked best for me is submitting between 8:30 and 9:30 Eastern time.  I figure that’s because you’ve got a lot of people at work checking Digg (and not submitting their sites) and by the time the West Coast catches up, you should have enough Diggs to warrant their attention.

6. Friends:  This is probably the single most important and overlooked factor to consistently get your submissions up on Digg’s homepage.  Keep in mind, that while Digg isn’t a social networking site like MySpace or Facebook, it does have some social aspect to it.

That being said, you need to get a lot of people to befriend you as quickly as possible.  The reason being, when someone befriends you, they are made aware of your submission and are much more likely to Digg it.  The more people who have befriended you, the more Diggs you’re likely to get.

So, how do you get people to befriend you?  Here are some tips:

  • Add other people as your friends
  • Submit insightful and funny comments to highly Dugg articles
  • Get up on the homepage!  (sorry for the catch 22)

Anyway, it’s no coincidence that as soon as I began focusing on getting people to befriend me I started to see a dramatic increase in the number of Diggs each of my submissions received.  Unfortunately, you’re going to need to be patient while you build up your friend list – it’s not something that’s going to happen over night!

This is everything I know about getting up on Digg’s homepage.  Hopefully this will help you start to get more Diggs and help you find your way up onto the homepage.

(As always, if this was useful, please feel free to Digg!)

Free SEO Tools Worth Checking Out

For those of us who run our businesses online – or just run websites in our spare time – we’re all well aware of how important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to getting lots of traffic to our sites and, in turn, growing our bottom lines. 

To that end, we spend countless hours trying to make sure that our sites are in tip-top shape in order to capture massive amounts of traffic from the likes of Google, Yahoo and MSN.

I came across an article published in that may help cut down on some of the time that we have to spend working on our site’s SEO.  The article outlines ten free SEO tools that might be able to help you ascend to the front page of Google much faster than your current trial and error method.

I’m not going to go over all ten tools, but there were two tools in particular that I think are worth noting:

  • Keyword Density Checker: This tool is great not only for helping you make sure that you’re hitting the right keyword density (which should be give or take 3% of any given article) but it’s also a useful tool to help you fine tune your article for contextual based advertising like Google Adsense.
  • What Are People Searching For:  For the most part, niche sites tend to do a lot better with targeted traffic and revenue when compared to very broad topics.  A great way to start narrowing down these broad topics is to use this free tool from Google to see what other search terms come up for your given topic.

Anyway, I highly recommend that you check out the article from and begin to implement many of the listed SEO tools.

I know it’s a pain to do all of the initial grunt work to get your site ranked on the first or second page for any given term, but once you get your site there, you should see a substantial jump in traffic and revenue.

Setting Goals for Your Business

After getting your business up and running, one of the most important things you can to do is to come up with some short terms goals, write them down, and then see them through.  The more and more I work at trying to establish my businesses, the more I realize that setting goals for your business is absolutely vital to helping it grow and stay on track to becoming a success.

You can go about this process one of two ways: 1) you can just haphazardly come up with very vague, open-ended goals or 2) you can really think about what you want out of your business, and come up with a few very specific goals.

Obviously, I’m going to encourage you to take the second route, but I guess I won’t complain if you take the easy way out – as long as you’re coming up with and writing down something!

But, should you choose to take the more constructive route, make sure that you are setting SMART goals for your business.  For the many of you who know what I’m talking about, go ahead and skip these next couple of paragraphs, but for those of you who don’t know what a SMART goal is, let me explain.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The reason why it’s better to set SMART goals as opposed to vague goals is because SMART goals force you to really think the goals through and, in the process, make you come up with your plan of action to complete the goal.  I look at vague goals as things that you hope will happen, while SMART goals are things that you will make happen.

Anyway, let me give you some of my SMART goals as examples:

  1. Average 2,000 page views per site by the end of July 2007 by writing quality content and promoting it through news submission sites and by leaving comments on other high traffic sites.
  2. Increase RSS subscriptions for each site to 500 by the end of July by increasing traffic, writing quality content and submitting my feeds to RSS aggregate sites.
  3. Maintain an Adsense Click-Through-Ratio (CTR) of no less than 4% for each site by optimizing the Adsense code for each site and testing different locations and ad types.
  4. Average daily Adsense revenue of $20 for each site by July 2007 by accomplishing the three previous goals

Simple enough, right?  These goals aren’t super elaborate, however they are certainly enough to keep me busy! 

On top of these goals, I also carry around a $10,000,000 check payable to myself, dated April 1, 2012.  Granted, this probably breaks the “realistic” section of SMART goals, but I figure even if I fall just a bit short of that, I’m going to be pretty happy!

Anyway, if you haven’t thought of what goals you’d like to have for your business, or you just haven’t gotten around to writing them down, I would highly encourage you to get around to it.  Hopefully it’ll help keep you on track and force you to try and maximize your business’ potential.

Is Technology Killing Customer Service?

Have you ever gotten the feeling that technology is making things more complicated and more time consuming despite claims to the contrary?  Don’t get me wrong, I love technology – I can’t imagine my life without the internet, email, cell phones, etc. – but at the same time, I feel like it has made some aspects of my life worse.

For example, I believe that technology has absolutely killed customer service.  One would think that advances in technology should have made customer service better, but at this point, I beg to differ.

Here’s why:

  • Most customer service seems to be handled electronically and is hardly ever done face to face.  Call me crazy, but if I ever have an issue with something or I need to speak with someone regarding concerns I may have, I want to handle it face to face.  Worse case scenario, I’d like to resolve everything via a phone conversation.  However, I don’t want to sit at my computer and trade emails with someone.  The other day I wanted to speak with someone about returning some broken computer speakers that were still under warranty, however when I went to the manufacturer’s website I was directed to send an email to a customer service rep who would in turn respond to me within 24 hours.
  • Most customer service systems are automated.  If you’re fortunate enough to find a customer service phone number, chances are after you’ve dialed the number you’re going to have to sit through 3 minutes of automated options.  I find few things in life more annoying than having to sit and listen to, “Press one for English.  Numero dos para espanol…” (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to get the tilda above the n).
  • Customer service has become impersonal.  ATMs, self-scanning checkout at the grocery store, paying at the pump, etc., have essentially replaced people with machines.  I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot more comfortable dealing with a person than I do dealing with some computer.
  • You’re just a number.  All of the above items make me believe that when I’m dealing with a company, I’m just a number to them.  They want to shuffle me along in an orderly fashion, have to deal with me as little as possible and then send me on my way.

Now I know some of you will say that it’s actually good customer service to have all of these things available to us.  On some level, I have to agree, because we do in fact use all of these automated systems and we’d probably all be upset if they were magically taken away from us.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I still believe customers should be dealt with on a face to face basis as much as possible, and should be treated with some level of reverence.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should go out of business to keep your customers happy, but I think if you go the extra mile to deal with them on a personal level it certainly won’t hurt your overall business.  Chances are it’ll probably help.

For example, let’s look at Jay Ellison, executive vice president of U.S. Cellular, and his “no email Fridays” decree.  Nearly two and a half years ago, Ellison began enforcing this email ban as a way of fostering better employee and customer relationships – and, amazingly, it’s worked.  Coworkers who couldn’t pick one another out of a lineup got to know each other, and employees began to develop better relationships with their customers.

Long story short, while technology has improved many aspects of our lives, it’s absolutely killing customer service.  If you run a business or have constant contact with your customers, every once in a while pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting as opposed to shooting off another email.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.